This college town is experimenting with giving low-income entrepreneurs and gig workers $12,672, no strings attached

Ann Arbor, Michigan, is pioneering a new approach to guaranteed basic income (GBI) through its program, Guaranteed Income to Grow Ann Arbor. This initiative is targeted at aiding entrepreneurs, small business owners, and gig workers within the community by providing them a monthly unconditional income of $528. Starting in January, this financial assistance will continue until the end of 2025.

#### Program Eligibility and Benefits

To qualify for this program, individuals and families need to have incomes that do not exceed 225% of the federal poverty line; this equates to $32,805 for an individual or $67,500 for a family of four. The GBI pilot is inclusive, considering a wide range of entrepreneurial activities such as side hustles, independent contract work, small business operations, or aspiring business initiatives. Local artists and musicians who meet the income requirements are also eligible.

#### Nationwide Adoption and Impact

The concept of guaranteed basic income is gaining popularity across the United States as a strategy to combat poverty. Since 2019, over 50 municipalities have experimented with similar models, providing monthly payments ranging from $100 to $1,000. Unlike traditional social services that restrict how funds must be used, GBI allows recipients the freedom to spend the money as they see fit. This flexibility has enabled participants in cities like San Antonio and Denver to utilize the funds for essential needs such as housing, groceries, debt repayment, and educational supplies.

#### Local Economic Enhancement

Ann Arbor is already recognized as a significant hub for technology and entrepreneurship, hosting nearly half of Michigan's startup companies. The Guaranteed Income to Grow Ann Arbor program is financed with $1.6 million from the 2021 American Rescue Plan Act, supported further by contributions from the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation, and backed by research handled by the University of Michigan.

#### Program Structure and Future Insights

The initiative is structured as a randomized control trial, involving 200 participants where half will receive the financial aid and the other half will not. This selection will provide valuable data on the program’s effectiveness, gathered through surveys conducted by the University of Michigan researchers. As GBI programs continue to emerge and evolve, tailored to specific demographic needs, the approach remains a topic of debate nationally, facing opposition in some states yet expanding in others like Chicago, which recently reinstated its GBI program.  

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