Watson Coleman Leads Introduction of Guaranteed Income Pilot Program

Watson Coleman Leads Introduction of Guaranteed Income Pilot Program
The Guaranteed Income Pilot Program Act of 2023 would Set Up Three-Year Program to Provide a Monthly Income to Test Group and Study Impacts

Today, Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12), announced the reintroduction of the Guaranteed Income Pilot Program Act, legislation that would establish a nationwide pilot program to test the viability of a federally funded income support program that keeps more American families from experiencing permanent financial fallout and lasting poverty from a single unexpected crisis.

While millionaires and billionaires thrive on the labor of hard-working Americans, those working families see just a fraction of profits and continue to live paycheck-to-paycheck. The Coronavirus pandemic, while devastating for everyday families, resulted in the wealthiest Americans doubling their fortunes and widening the gap between the super-rich and the rest of us.

The COVID crisis exposed the fragility of our economy in its interactions with working people. At the same time, it demonstrated the real and meaningful ability of federal and state programs to keep Americans out of poverty.

“Many policymakers have seen this pandemic as a once-in-a-lifetime crisis, and while that may be true for businesses or markets, for millions of  Americans, this is just one more emergency threatening to wipe out what little savings they have, to finally push them to homelessness, to reinforce the fact that in the wealthiest nation in the world, too many families are just a single mishap away from financial devastation,” said Watson Coleman. “What we learned when Congress made the decision to send economic impact payments through the CARES Act and American Rescue Plan was that our government can prevent people from falling into poverty, it can build a floor beneath which we say no one in this country should fall. This bill is all about looking at ways to make that floor permanent, giving more families a sense of economic security.”

“We are the richest country in the world at the richest moment in history. It is our duty to ensure that all Americans have access to fundamental rights like food and shelter. I am proud to join Rep. Watson Coleman in introducing the Guaranteed Income Pilot Program Act. This bill will help gather data about guaranteed income as an innovative way to reduce inequality and create economic security,” said Rep. Jan Schakowsky (IL-09). “Local leaders across the country are leading the way. In 2022, my hometown of Evanston, IL, piloted a guaranteed income program. I am enthused to bring that energy to the federal level. Families are counting on us, let’s get it done.”

“Our nation has been plagued by systemic wealth inequality for far too long, holding back generations of Americans from reaching their full potential,” said Rep. Ritchie Torres (NY-15). “For instance, the top 1% of households control more than 32% of the wealth in this country. However, the bottom 50% control less than 3%. A guaranteed income would help level the economic playing field for millions of people and work toward dismantling poverty and other financial barriers.”

“Studies have revealed that guaranteed income, when implemented properly, is effective in improving people’s health and wellbeing,” Rep. Barbara Lee (CA-12) said. “The Guaranteed Income Pilot Program Act will further our understanding of these policies while simultaneously providing much-needed direct support to many Americans who are most vulnerable to poverty and its related hardships. Every community deserves equitable treatment and opportunities to achieve economic mobility for themselves and their families.”

“In my Bay Area district, the cost of living has skyrocketed leaving many families unable to afford food, housing, child care, and other basic necessities. Federal and state initiatives can make all the difference for those struggling to make ends meet. However, the expiration of several federal pandemic-era programs has left families with fewer resources to turn to,” Rep. Kevin Mullin (CA-15) said. “Guaranteed income has the potential to lift individuals out of poverty while helping them build long-term financial stability and economic resilience. This pilot program is an enormous opportunity to test what we already know to be true: when families prosper, our nation prospers.”


The Guaranteed Income Pilot Program Act of 2023 would establish a three-year nationwide pilot program that gives a monthly support payment to individual taxpayers implemented by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

  • The pilot program created by the bill would distribute monthly cash payments to included participants in amounts equal to fair market rent for a 2-bedroom home in their zip code, or a similar amount to be determined by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, with payments arriving on or near the 15th day of each month.
  • Payments to participants made through the pilot program would not be considered when determining eligibility for federal or federally assisted state or local assistance programs, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Medicaid.
  • The bill requires HHS to work with a non-profit academic or research institution with experience in mixed-method experimental design to support development of the pilot program and ensure measurable results.
  • The pilot program would include 20,000 individuals, including a control group of 10,000, to allow comparison of economic security for the families involved at the end of the three-year period.
  • The bill requires HHS, the Internal Revenue Service, and the designated research institution to provide an interim report on the pilot program’s outcomes within 24 months of implementation, and a final report within 12 months of the program’s conclusion.


“For decades, researchers, organizers, and advocates have called for guaranteed income programs to open up a chance for everyone to prosper and contribute to their families, communities, and our countries to the fullest,” said Indivar Dutta-Gupta, President and Executive Director of the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP). “Recent guaranteed income pilots in cities nationwide have largely concluded that the programs help people—especially families of color with low incomes—maintain a basic standard of living with little to no downsides. We know from recent Census Bureau data that programs like the expanded Child Tax Credit and stimulus payments effectively shrunk poverty and hardship. CLASP is proud to keep up the momentum by endorsing the Guaranteed Income Pilot Program Act, which would continue to build the growing evidence base and move us toward an income floor for all.”

“People feel the stress and unease of financial insecurity and we know that more can be done to reduce that stress. During the pandemic, we saw the power of direct cash payments in improving the well-being of families, yet we failed to heed that lesson and, as a result, we see more and more parents having to make hard choices between food and rent,” said Natalie Foster, President and Co-Founder of Economic Security Project. “Today, we have over 100 guaranteed income programs in the United States that can prove the effectiveness of direct cash payments through both empirical research as well as through the leadership of guaranteed income participants. The guaranteed income can be seen in people’s lives and in local politics. From Jackson to Stockton and now to DC, the guaranteed income movement is growing and will be heard.”

“Congresswoman Watson Coleman’s bold proposal to combat poverty has earned our enthusiastic support,” stated Taofik Oladipo, Political and Policy Manager at Liberation in a Generation. “LibGen is an organization dedicated to fostering an inclusive economy where people, especially people of color, can thrive and flourish. The Guaranteed Income Pilot Program Act of 2023 signifies a crucial step towards transforming our social safety net, providing direct financial support to struggling individuals and families while also helping us build a comprehensive understanding of the long-term benefits and effectiveness of guaranteeing a basic income.”

“NETWORK Lobby is proud to endorse Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman’s Universal Basic Income pilot legislation,” said Mary J. Novak, Executive Director of NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice. “UBI has proven extremely effective in reducing poverty at the local level. Providing a guaranteed income floor below which no individual or family can fall can raise people out of poverty. The doubling of child poverty in the U.S. revealed in the latest Census data has been especially devastating to Black and Brown communities, making this federal legislation even more urgent. NETWORK is hopeful this pilot will lead to a much-needed national UBI program.”

“Poverty, racism, and financial insecurity harm millions of people–impacting job access, children’s education, and family grocery bills–and harm our nation’s ability to reach its full potential,” said Aileen Carr, Interim Executive Director of the Georgetown Center on Poverty and Inequality. “Building on existing evidence to pilot a national guaranteed income program at large scale would move us toward a nation of opportunity, where everyone has the resources they need to take care of themselves and their loved ones.”

“I’m proud to support Rep. Watson Coleman’s Guaranteed Income Pilot Program Act of 2023 because it’s an important step toward ending poverty in the United States,” said Michael Tubbs, former mayor of Stockton, CA and Founder and Chair of Mayors for a Guaranteed Income. “I launched the first mayor-led guaranteed income pilot in the country, and we proved that a relatively small amount of cash leads to reduced income volatility and a healthier population. Our pilot recipients were also more likely to find full-time employment than those without a guaranteed income. Cities, counties and states have shown that a guaranteed income works, and now Congress must do its part to continue the progress.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic clearly demonstrated that our existing social support systems aren’t fast or flexible enough to respond to the needs of struggling families when crisis hits,” said Jim Pugh, Co-Director of the Universal Income Project. “The Guaranteed Income Pilot Program Act by Rep. Watson Coleman will be a great opportunity to explore how guaranteed income can be an effective, dignified way to give all American families the resilience to deal with whatever financial challenges may come their way.”

“We must permanently change the way we invest in and protect our communities—and at the heart of our communities are our essential artists and creative workers,” said Maura Cuffie-Peterson, Director of Guaranteed Income at Creatives Rebuild New York. “A guaranteed income is a game changer in addressing the economic inequities that burden so many of us, including artists. Cash is powerful, and as work patterns shift, we need an ever-stronger social safety net that allows people to have the freedom and choice to meet their full potential. The Guaranteed Income Pilot Program Act paves a path to a guaranteed income at scale. Thank you, Reps. Watson Coleman and Schakowsky, for leading the way.”

“Poverty is an immoral blight that drags and iteratively plagues our economy, and guaranteed income is a direct and parsimonious way to eliminate this blight,” said Dr. Darrick Hamilton, Henry Cohen Professor of Economics and Urban Policy and the Founding Director of the Institute of Race, Power, and Political Economy at the New School. “People (and our environment) are our most treasured assets on earth–it turns out that cash is a basic, necessary and critical investment to achieve our productive capacities. The Guaranteed Income Pilot Program Act of 2023 presents a pathway to eliminate poverty and empower people, families and communities to unleash their ingenuity, reap the rewards of their efforts, and contribute to an inclusive, vibrant and just society.”

“Guaranteed basic income has the power to lift families out of poverty and demonstrate America’s desire to build a culture of repair and belonging,” said Dr. Michelle Burton, Deputy CEO at Rising Communities. “It is a meaningful step towards creating an equitable world in which all communities are empowered with collective determination to build the infrastructure and systems that ensure fulfilling, healthy lives for everyone.”

“Poverty is a policy choice we don’t have to keep making. We know that no-strings-attached cash helps families put food on the table, reduces economic and racial inequality, empowers workers, and boosts our economy,” said Community Change Action Co-President Dorian Warren. “The impact of the expanded EITC and CTC in the American Rescue Plan proved it by cutting poverty to historic lows. Congress’s failure to make those policies permanent and choice to plunge millions of children and families back into poverty is unacceptable. The Guaranteed Income Pilot Program Act is the natural next step after the life-saving impact of cash-in-hand policies we’ve seen all over the country.”

“One of Shirley Chisholm’s key election ideas is in alignment with the Guaranteed Income Pilot Program,” said Barbara Bullard, President and CEO, Shirley Chisholm Cultural Institute. “She passionately articulated the need for economic redistribution. She made it clear that this concept was not about providing free money but about creating a society where all individuals could attain self-determination and unite to pursue common goals.  Shirley Chisholm’s words from that time continue to resonate strongly today. She fervently stated, ‘I believe the future of our great society depends on ending a government that is not only conservative but selfish. It depends on the exploitation of the common people.’ She firmly believed that our government should not serve as an instrument of selfishness but, rather, as an agent of positive change and progress for all. Her vision encompassed a more equitable future where the government actively worked to uplift the common people, fostering an environment where every citizen could contribute their talents toward building a stronger, more just society. As the President of the Shirley Chisholm Cultural Institute, I wholeheartedly endorse this pilot program, which closely aligns with Shirley Chisholm’s profound vision for American society.”

The Guaranteed Income Pilot Program Act’s cosponsors include Reps. Jan Schakowsky (IL-09), Donald M. Payne, Jr. (NJ-10), Ritchie Torres (NY-15), Jamaal Bowman (NY-16), Danny Davis (IL-7), Barbara Lee (CA-12), Kevin Mullin (CA-15), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC-At Large), Rashida Tlaib (MI-12), Jasmine Crockett (TX-30), and Sara Jacobs (CA-53).

Organizations endorsing the Guaranteed Income Pilot Program Act: Economic Security Project, Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), National Coalition for the Homeless, Liberation in a Generation, NETWORK Lobby, Georgetown Center on Poverty and Inequality, Mayors for Guaranteed Income, Universal Income Project, Creatives Rebuild New York, Institute of Race, Power, and Political Economy at the New School, Rising Communities, Oxfam America, The Shriver Center on Poverty Law, Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO), the Shirley Chisholm Cultural Institute, and San Diego for Every Child.

The bill in its entirety can be found here.

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