A family with two people and a baby plays outside and smilesWhat do housing insecurity, food insecurity, health care access, and the education achievement gap have in common? Poverty. Poverty is a driving factor behind many public health issues, and by reducing poverty, we can also make our communities healthier. One strategy to reduce poverty is called “universal basic income,” and it has the potential to be a game-changer for communities.

What is Universal Basic Income?

Universal basic income (UBI) is a program that provides direct cash to people, without conditions, on a regular basis. We all experienced a little bit of what an UBI program could be when we received COVID-19 stimulus checks during the height of the pandemic.

Depending on the program, the amount of cash given each month might be different but is generally at least $500. Some implementations of UBI aim to benefit everyone, no matter what their household income is; other programs give benefits to those only below a certain household income. But the main thread is that people aren’t constrained with how they can use their benefits, allowing them to spend the money on whatever is most important to their household—whether that’s rent, car payments, phone payments, food, clothing, or whatever else people need.

Why is this a public health issue?

UBI has the potential to have significant effects on public health. From County Health Rankings, UBI can positively change many health outcomes, including:

  • Mental health
  • Infant birth weight
  • Employment (UBI does not lower labor supply overall)
  • Children's health outcomes—children go farther in school and have higher incomes in adulthood

Money and health are closely tied together. Economic policies can have great impacts on our health, giving us the ability to buy fresh food, pay for childcare, live in safer housing, access transportation, or pay for medical care. Since poverty affects so many aspects of health, if we address it at the root, we can make changes in all sorts of health issues.

What is the Madison Forward Fund?

The Madison Forward Fund is a year-long experimental UBI program for Madison residents.

The guaranteed income is a monthly, cash payment of $500 given directly to 155 households for 12 months. It is unconditional, with no strings attached and no work requirements.

Think you might qualify or know someone who does? Apply before July 3!

Learn more

This content is free for use with credit to the City of Madison - Public Health Madison & Dane County and a link back to the original post.