New program in Alexandria will give $500 a month to low-income families

A new program in Alexandria will give several hundred dollars in cash a month to low-income families.

It’s called the Guaranteed Income Pilot Program and was spearheaded by Alexandria’s mayor, Justin Wilson.

Starting November 1, the city will give $500 a month, for two years to 150 households. Those households will likely fall just above the poverty level, making around 30-40% of the area’s median income.

The goal is to offer a different kind of government assistance that local officials hope will be more beneficial long term.

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"There’s very much a paternalistic mindset we use for these programs. Where it’s that it must be spent on certain things and in a lot of cases that is the kind of need that these families have, but in a lot of cases it isn’t. I think in allowing people to use this money in a way that benefits their family is perhaps going to be more impactful but we’ll see," Wilson said.

Wilson says the concept was originally tested out by the Nixon administration in the 1970s. Cities across the country have tried similar programs with mixed results.

The city of Alexandria will use the $60 million it received from the America Rescue Plan to fund the program.

People FOX 5 spoke to have mixed feelings on the program.

"If people need help, they need help and that’s going to help them feed their families. But at the same time, I’m wondering if you keep getting more and more money what incentive is there to pull yourself out and get better jobs and stuff," Kyra Abraham, an Alexandria resident said.

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"I hope they pay it forward and it becomes this beautiful program and that it evolves and more people use it and people get out of poverty. I think that’s the goal for a lot of programs. It can’t always go that way but I think it’s a great idea," Himar Sanchez, another Alexandria resident said.

The city will choose the pilot recipients by working with non-profits and other benefit programs to see who fits the need. A big part of the pilot program is studying the data and results to see if it can work long term.

"If we can pull families out of poverty and help them become more resilient we’re ultimately going to spend less. It’s going to be less for taxpayers," Wilson said.

The city is holding virtual public hearings on the topic. The next one will be held tomorrow night. For more information click here.