Report offers strategies to develop and implement policies that can transform how San Francisco pursues economic justice and wellbeing for its residents
Posted April 12, 2022
SAN FRANCISCO — The San Francisco Guaranteed Income Advisory Group today released its final report, “From Pilots to Policy Change: Recommendations from San Francisco’s Guaranteed Income Advisory Group.” This report suggests steps the City and County can take to strengthen support for existing and future pilots, while also advocating strategies to move beyond pilots, developing and implementing guaranteed income policies that can transform how San Francisco pursues economic justice and wellbeing for its residents.
"San Francisco is uniquely positioned to advance guaranteed income as a transformative solution to poverty and economic insecurity,” said Jim Pugh, founder of the Universal Income Project and Advisory Group member. “As the city with the most guaranteed income programs in the country, other cities and states are looking to us as a model for implementing this policy and for establishing a new narrative around poverty -- one that recognizes people's inherent dignity and that the way out is to simply provide people with the resources they need."
The Advisory Group was established by an ordinance introduced by Supervisor Matt Haney to advise the Board of Supervisors, the Mayor, and appropriate City departments on various aspects of guaranteed income – direct, unrestricted and unconditional cash transfers to individuals or households. Members brought diverse knowledge and experiences to the work, including researchers, advocates, people who have personally experienced poverty, people with professional experience serving low-income communities, and staff from relevant City departments. The Advisory Group was staffed by the Office of the Treasurer & Tax Collector. The report provides a synthesis of the findings and recommendations surfaced during a yearlong process of research, stakeholder interviews and testimony, and public meetings.
Elena Chávez Quezada, an Advisory Group member and the Chief Impact Officer at EPIC, stated: “I am proud of the shared vision that this Advisory Group developed over the past year, and excited about the potential for San Francisco to lead in advancing a bold anti-poverty agenda. Guaranteed income has the potential to help heal feelings of shame and stigma, increase agency, and ultimately change the poverty narrative – especially by centering the insights, ideas, and experiences of people living in poverty.”
Guaranteed income is a policy response to systemic poverty and rising inequality, particularly during a pandemic that has brutally exacerbated these problems. Recipients are empowered and trusted to make their own choices about how best to use their money. Guaranteed income is similar to universal basic income (UBI) but targeted rather than provided to everyone in a community.
“As we confront decades of disinvestment in Black and Brown communities here in San Francisco, direct cash assistance – with no strings attached – gives us a powerful tool to heal wounded spirits, improve outcomes, and begin to fix the systems that caused the damage,” said Sheryl Davis, Executive Director of the San Francisco Human Rights Commission and Advisory Group member. “Guaranteed income programs and policies that target racial disparities can improve outcomes from health and wellness to housing insecurity to financial stability and economic mobility.”
In the report you will find several recommendations, including aligning guaranteed income strategies through centralized staffing and coordination, focusing on racial equity and periods of critical transition, pursuing structural, sustainable and scalable cash transfer policies, and centering community voices in the planning, implementation and evaluation of guaranteed income work. The report also reflects the Advisory Group’s emphasis on the importance of changing narratives around poverty and public assistance from scarcity and “deservedness” to abundance and dignity.
"I am proud to have served on the guaranteed income advisory group and grateful to my fellow members and staff for putting this report together,” said Jacob Denney, Economic Justice Policy Director at SPUR and an Advisory Group member. “This report gets right that good policy begins with centering the voices of the people, and I am excited to use these lessons to begin transforming guaranteed income from pilots to policy in San Francisco."
The report comes amidst surging interest in guaranteed income, with more than a hundred pilot programs in operation or development across the country, including numerous pilots in San Francisco and the surrounding Bay Area. While the initial wave of guaranteed income pilots has been largely implemented by nonprofit organizations and funded by private philanthropy, the City and County has been actively engaged in advising, funding and implementing pilots including the YBCA Artists Pilot, the Abundant Birth Project, the Transgender Guaranteed Income Initiative, and the Mayor’s Dream Keeper Initiative.
In addition to the report, the City has created a centralized repository where practitioners and policymakers can find guidance on the design and implementation of pilot programs. Here you will find guaranteed income toolkits, as well as advice on working with City Departments and tapping into local, state and national communities of practice. The website also briefly outlines key steps in design and implementation, such as community research and planning, distributing funds, protecting public benefits, funding, evaluation, and supportive services.
For more information about the Guaranteed Income Advisory Group, visit: https://sftreasurer.org/community/guaranteed-income.