Twitter CEO to Fund Universal Basic Income Experiment in These U.S. Cities

Twitter boss Jack Dorsey is donating $3 million to a coalition of mayors advocating for the introduction of universal basic income in dozens of cities.

The billionaire co-founder of the social networking giant announced on Thursday that he was investing the funds into the Mayors for a Guaranteed Income—a project launched last month by Michael Tubbs, the 29-year-old mayor of Stockton, California.

"This is one tool to close the wealth and income gap, level systemic race and gender inequalities, and create economic security for families," Dorsey tweeted.

The coalition is promoting the benefits of a guaranteed income for citizens in at least 15 cities so far, which would potentially affect more than 7 million Americans.

The system, if rolled out, would give a monthly cash payment directly to individuals with "no strings attached and no work requirement," it explains online. Several U.S. cities are now backing the project, including Los Angeles, Newark, Pittsburgh and Seattle.

The entire network is so appreciative of this support. Together, we can make the American economy work for everyone.

— Mayors for a Guaranteed Income (@mayorsforagi) July 9, 2020

It's not an unprecedented pitch, with some guaranteed income trials already in motion. Since February last year, the Stockton mayor has been giving 125 residents $500 per month as part of the experiment, a program now extended through to 2021.

In Jackson, Mississippi, a trust has been giving $1000 per month to Black mothers as part of a similar scheme. Officials in Chicago, Newark, and Atlanta have formed task forces to explore the financial concept, while Milwaukee is creating a pilot.

"More cash in people's pockets keeps families financially secure and stimulates the local economy," the coalition explains online, pitching the scheme.

"Especially in the wake of COVID-19 and the ensuing recession, a guaranteed income will stimulate spending on main street and generate much-needed state and local revenue to drive the economic recovery across the country," it continues.

Broadly, it says guaranteed income can be paid for via wealth funds or by bringing "tax rates on the wealthiest Americans to their 20th century historical averages."

The mayors and cities in the project so far:

Ras Baraka, Newark, NJ; Steve Benjamin, Columbia, SC; Keisha Lance Bottoms, Atlanta, GA; Aja Brown, Compton, CA. Melvin Carter, St. Paul, MN; Jenny Durkan, Seattle, WA; Eric Garcetti, Los Angeles, CA; Robert Garcia, Long Beach, CA; Alex Morse, Holyoke, MA; Chokwe Antar Lumumba, Jackson, MS; William Peduto, Pittsburgh, PA; Adrian Perkins, Shreveport, LA, Satya Rhodes-Conway, Madison, WI; Libby Schaaf, Oakland, CA and Victoria R. Woodards, Tacoma, WA.

Dorsey's donating to the Mayors for a Guaranteed Income will reportedly be used for programs in Stockton based around income programs for domestic violence and housing issues, alongside research and planning for other cities' pilots.

Dorsey has a net worth of more than $7 billion, according to Forbes.

In April, he announced he was moving $1 billion of equity from his payments company Square into a new philanthropic project called StartSmall.

Dorsey said the outfit would funnel money into global COVID-19 relief before shifting its attention, and funds, to girl's health/education and universal basic income.

He wrote: "Why UBI and girl's health and education? I believe they represent the best long-term solutions to the existential problems facing the world. UBI is a great idea needing experimentation. Why now? The needs are increasingly urgent, and I want to see the impact in my lifetime. I hope this inspires others to do something similar."

I’m moving $1B of my Square equity (~28% of my wealth) to #startsmall LLC to fund global COVID-19 relief. After we disarm this pandemic, the focus will shift to girl’s health and education, and UBI. It will operate transparently, all flows tracked here:

— jack (@jack) April 7, 2020

Speaking this month on a panel with Dr. Bernice King, the daughter of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, Mayor Tubbs said: "This concept is actually American."

He elaborated: "This is how we build prosperity and build wealth and create opportunity for certain groups of people. We know, given the history of this country, that people of color and in particular Black people have historically been excluded from all the ways that the government has provided, not a handout but really a hand up."

On the Mayors for a Guaranteed Income own website, the project is described as being "rooted in Dr. King's legacy," and intended to help build a "resilient, just America."

 Jack Dorsey
Chief executive officer of Twitter Inc. and Square Inc. Jack Dorsey arrives to attend the "Tech for Good" Summit at Hotel de Marigny on May 15, 2019 in Paris, France. Chesnot/Getty

Editor's Picks

Newsweek cover
  • Newsweek magazine delivered to your door
  • Unlimited access to
  • Ad free experience
  • iOS and Android app access
  • All newsletters + podcasts
Newsweek cover
  • Unlimited access to
  • Ad free experience
  • iOS and Android app access
  • All newsletters + podcasts