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Rochester City Council approves pilot program for Guaranteed Basic Income


Rochester City Hall. - FILE PHOTO
  • Rochester City Hall.
Rochester City Council on Tuesday gave unanimous approval to a proposal which establishes a pilot program for a Guaranteed Basic income.

The legislation appropriates $2.2 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act funding to provide $500 per month for one year to 175 individuals in households with income at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level. The second year of the program will provide the same monthly amount to a different group of 175 people.

Before she left office at the end of November, former Mayor Lovely Warren submitted the legislation saying that “The quickest path for Rochester families to escape poverty and build generational wealth is through the establishment of a guaranteed basic income.”

The legislation allows the city to establish a contract with The Black Community Focus Fund, Inc., led by Rev. Myra Brown, to administer the program.

Guaranteed or Universal Basic Income programs have been implemented or proposed in a number of other communities around the nation.

Mayor-elect Malik Evans supports the concept, but indicated he would like to explore the possibility of an even larger program, possibly with the help of philanthropic support.

Also on Tuesday night, City Council approved legislation related to public spaces in the city that have been named after individuals who enslaved people.

Rochester City Council President Loretta Scott. - PHOTO BY RYAN WILLIAMSON
  • Rochester City Council President Loretta Scott.
The resolution, submitted by Council President Loretta Scott and Councilmember Mitch Gruber, says that a preliminary survey of public spaces by the City Historian identified the Charles Carroll Park on Andrews Street and Nathaniel Square on Alexander Street, as public spaces named for two of the city’s founders, whose “involvement as enslavers and traders is well documented.”

The resolution urges the city administration to continue the survey of public spaces and to "rename all public places that are named after slaveholders."

The measure notes that Rochester’s past includes many individuals who deserve public spaces named after them.

Among the examples mentioned in the resolution are Austin Steward, an African American abolitionist, author and businessman who wrote a memoir in the 1800s called, ‘Twenty-Two Years a Slave, and Forty years a Freeman,’ and James McCuller, who led Action for a Better Community in Rochester for a number of years starting in 1968.

Randy Gorbman is the news director at WXXI News, a media partner of CITY.