- As Congress debates providing direct money transfers to American workers, a nonprofit takes matters into its own hands and immediately gives money to needy Americans.
- The nonprofit GiveDirectly is sending Americans enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) $ 1,000 on debit cards starting with 200 recipients next week.
- GiveDirectly CFO Joe Huston said the organization has enough funds to immediately send 200 checks and hopes to expand the program to help more people.
- Advocates of direct cash transfers and universal basic income hope that giving money to the poor as a policy will become less stigmatized and deployed more often as a result of the coronavirus crisis.
- Visit the Business Insider homepage for more stories.
As Congressional leaders debate legislation to provide direct money transfers to American workers amid novel coronavirus outbreak, organization takes matters into its own hands and pilots program to give Americans $ 1,000 vulnerable from next week.
The rapid spread of the novel coronavirus has already resulted in the loss of their jobs, layoffs or reduced working hours for thousands of Americans. So far, at least 16,000 cases of the virus have been reported in the United States, with 213 deaths.
While the travel and hospitality industries were the hardest hit initially, workers in the United States, such as waiters, bartenders, and the self-employed across industries, are out of work after several states have ordered the closure of most public places, including restaurants, bars, cinemas, concert halls and gymnasiums.
Some economists now estimate that a million American workers could lose their jobs in the month of March alone, the Washington Post reported. Already, unemployment insurance claims are on the rise in several states, with a Friday report from Goldman Sachs predicting total UI claims are on track to break an all-time high and could reach 2.5 million this week alone.
Since 2009, the non-profit organization GiveDirectly has launched a charitable model of direct cash payments to people in need, mainly located in developing countries. And now he is stepping in to provide emergency assistance to as many of these workers as possible.
On Thursday, the organization announced that it is rolling out a program to send Americans enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) $ 1,000 loaded onto debit cards after the recipient receives them in the mail in starting with 200 recipients next week – no strings attached.
The organization identifies SNAP recipients in coordination with the firm Propel, which is developing technology to help SNAP recipients. The operation indicates that 90% of donations to the emergency relief program against the coronavirus will go directly into the pockets of beneficiaries and the remaining 10% to administrative and logistical costs.
In an interview with Insider on Friday, GiveDirectly CFO Joe Huston said the organization has enough funds to immediately send out 200 debit cards and hopes to expand the program to help more people, especially Americans without paper and aged that often fall through the cracks of other government assistance programs.
Huston told Insider that although the federal government has distributed emergency cash assistance before, he was surprised to see so many different lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, ranging from GOP Senator Mitt Romney to Democratic Representative Ilhan Omar, introducing their own proposals for direct cash assistance.
After passing an initial back-up plan that included emergency sick leave, the GOP-led U.S. Senate is now passing a proposal to provide means-tested cash assistance to most Americans based on statements from the United States. income from 2018. With it’s unclear how long it will take for details of the legislation to pass and come into effect to start sending checks, GiveDirectly steps in to fill the void in government action.
Policy advocates hope giving money to the poor will become less stigmatized
Former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang, who has widely advocated for cash transfers to be a component of the U.S. political landscape, also celebrated the developments in Congress.
Yang went from being a little-known presidential candidate to being a national sensation, in part because of his unique political platform, which included a universal basic income program that he called Freedom Dividend. The initiative would give every American adult $ 1,000 a month, without any strings attached.
On Monday, Yang said he had “been in contact” with the White House about developing an emergency cash transfer plan and that his team was “keen to offer our support for s ‘ensure that this process runs as smoothly as possible “.
âI think he’s helped a lot,â Huston said of Yang. “He obviously did not invent Basic Income and he did not invent cash transfers … but he was at so many Democratic debates to talk about Basic Income and bring it to the fore.”
The measures proposed to Congress are temporary cash assistance programs in direct response to the current crisis, as opposed to a fixed, permanent policy like Yang’s Freedom Dividend. But Huston told Insider he was cautiously optimistic that the current crisis could lead to a long-term shift in U.S. public policy toward direct money transfers.
âI hope that a good impact that could result from this horrible thing is that we start using money earlier as a tool in the toolkit for how to help people,â he said. he declares.
Hurston noted that while Yang’s revival of the national debate on universal basic income received the most attention, Yang and other candidates helped make direct cash plans more reasonable and achievable by incorporating them into their campaign platforms.
These plans included Sen. Kamala Harris’ LIFT The Middle Class Act, a significant extension of the working income tax credit that would give monthly cash payments to middle-class individuals and families, and the Baby Bonds plan. Senator Cory Booker, in which the government would create and contribute “opportunity accounts” for children of low and middle income families to close the wealth gap.
Huston argued that in recent years, GiveDirectly’s work in the developing world and in disaster situations and other economic research has produced concrete, data-based evidence to counter common stereotypes that low income people are irresponsible with money, will not spend it on essentials and will even be deterred from working.
For decades, many of these same messages have been used as arguments against social protection programs, including social benefits and SNAP. Indeed, the US Department of Agriculture is currently fighting in federal court to impose work requirements on SNAP beneficiaries who could deport approximately 700,000 people.
Instead, GiveDirectly argues that their research and track record of international aid and disaster relief shows that low-income people themselves are best qualified to spend directly for their own needs instead. to have outside organizations spending on their behalf.
âA lot of our conditioning is from the assumption that you can’t just give people money. Since we even have this aphorism around ‘you should teach a man to fish, not to give him. a fish. “I feel like we’ve all been conditioned to say it’s not possible,” Huston said.
And while some Americans may be inclined to donate to large charities at first and be wary of giving money away, Huston argued that direct money is “exceptionally well suited” to a devastating economic crisis. and total like the coronavirus.
“While this is the immediate cause of a medical crisis, the way many of us will be affected in the first place is economically, whether we will lose jobs or have new child care expenses or costs. other unforeseen costs, âHuston said. âFor people in need, their needs are very diverse. The good thing about money is that we can do one thing: distribute money to a lot of people and then enable many priorities or fill a lot of gaps for different people. “
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