The Lead

State lawmakers to introduce legislation for universal basic income study

By: - July 18, 2023 4:07 pm
Pennsylvania Capitol Building. May 24, 2022. Harrisburg, Pa. (Photo by Amanda Berg, for the Capital-Star).

Pennsylvania Capitol Building in Harrisburg, Pa. (Photo by Amanda Berg for the Capital-Star).

Three state lawmakers from Philadelphia said they plan to introduce legislation directing a state agency to study and report back on the efficacy of a universal basic income program in Pennsylvania. 

Democratic state Reps. Ben Waxman, Morgan Cephas and Chris Rabb, all signed onto a co-sponsorship memo seeking legislative support for the bill, which would require the Department of Human Services to conduct the study, which would also help state officials determine which municipalities would be best suited to implement a UBI program. 

The idea of universal basic income is not new, but has continued to generate global interest in recent years, with nations such as Finland, and the United Kingdom, conducting trials.

In 2020, Democratic state Rep. Elizabeth Fiedler, of Philadelphia, and U.S. Rep. Summer Lee, D-12th District, then a member of the state House from Allegheny County, also sought support for a similar proposal

UBI has also been a topic on the presidential campaign trail, with then-Democratic White House hopeful Andrew Yang endorsing the concept during his 2020 run for the Oval Office. 

The concept of UBI saw increased attention during the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, which supporters have cited as an example of the need to explore UBI further. 

In 2021, the Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration, a mayor-led guaranteed income demonstration, studied the effects of UBI, providing 125 participants with $500 monthly for two years. 

The SEED study found that recipients were healthier, more financially stable, and more likely to set goals and take risks as a result of the UBI program, but noted that the “exorbitant” costs of necessities, such as child care, medical care, and housing, continue to be sources of hardship and stress for many. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for a comprehensive safety net reform,” the study concluded.

To date, many cities and municipalities across the country have continued to launch, test, and implement UBI programs, with  Chicago, Atlanta, Oakland, Phoenix, Denver and Baltimore among them.

The study, the lawmakers wrote, would be a “vital first step in understanding how a universal basic income pilot program could be implemented in Pennsylvania.”

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Cassie Miller
Cassie Miller

A native Pennsylvanian, Cassie Miller worked for various publications across the Midstate before joining the team at the Pennsylvania Capital-Star. In her previous roles, she has covered everything from local sports to the financial services industry.