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Ex-prisoners in Gainesville may soon receive guaranteed income

Published: Feb. 17, 2021 at 6:24 PM EST
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) - Ex-prisoners in Gainesville may soon be getting a guaranteed income.

The city and its partners are still in the early stages of design-- with unanswered questions as to who will qualify to receive this money, how many people will receive this money, and how much the income will be. Here’s what we do know:

-The money will not come from taxpayers. The program will be privately funded.

-While no city funds will go directly towards the program, city workers’ time may be spent working on the development of it.

-It is not just a financial support system but part of a study for a nation-wide issue led by the organization “Mayors For Guaranteed Income,” which Gainesville Mayor Lauren Poe is a member of.

“The highest correlation between a returning citizen and ending back up in prison is poverty-- there is no greater indicator,” Poe said.

-There is no number set for what the income will be, but it could be up to $600 a month.

RELATED STORY: Gainesville guaranteed income pilot program in the works

Mayors across the country, part of MGI, are running similar pilot programs in their own areas for different low-income groups. A $15 million donation by Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey will be the funding bulk of the project.

Poe is partnering with the non-profit Community Spring and together they hope to gather additional funds through philanthropies and partnerships.

“This is going to be a randomized control trial-- we are partnering with the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Florida in order to rigorously study what happens when you give people monthly checks-- how does their behavior change,” said Community Spring Executive Director Lindsay Kallman.

Kallman said she thinks the study will be important in debunking the myth that guaranteed income dollars go towards items like drugs and alcohol. She says there is no evidence to that claim and that the money is crucial to the survival of many individuals who are unable to get jobs or housing out of prison. She says it will not be a replacement for other financial support systems but an addition.

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For many ex-prisoners, a program like this could be life-changing. Tequila McKnight got out of the prison system 7 years ago. She is now a fellow at Community Spring and says the program will have a huge impact.

“When I got out ... for a whole year I could not even buy clothes-- I didn’t have money to buy anything. My money went directly to pay rent for me and my kids,” she said.

The next step is for the city, Community Spring, and MGI to sign a memorandum of understanding. From there, they will apply for the grant to get the program started. If accepted, they will fine-tune criteria, solidify partnerships, and get the program up and running.

Poe says he hopes to have the program started by October 1, 2021. This is a developing story.

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