Brooklyn legislator introduces universal basic income bill

State Sen. Kevin Parker introduced a bill to give thousands of New Yorkers a monthly check as a pilot program that he hopes will someday be implemented statewide.
Photo by Colin Mixson

State Sen. Kevin Parker introduced a bill on Sept. 9 to give 10,000 New Yorkers a $600 check every month for two years — no strings attached — in an elaborate and costly test of a proposed “Universal Basic Income” program that he eventually wants to expand into a statewide subsidy.

“We see robots taking over the jobs of people,” said Parker. “We have to take care of those people. We have an obligation to take care of them.”

Under Parker’s scheme, 10,000 low-income participants from around the state would be randomly selected to receive checks every four weeks for 24 months — giving state bean counters a chance to study the economic impact of the program. Selected individuals would receive $7,200 per year, and couples would get $14,400.

The pilot program would cost taxpayers a whopping $144 million, with a potential cost for statewide implementation that even Parker called “eye-popping.”

But the legislator — who represents several neighborhoods, including Park Slope and Flatbush — said the bold welfare program was necessary to combat what he sees as a grim economic situation right here in Brooklyn.

“It would give people the ability to simply live decently for a change, instead of struggling in the way that their families are struggling right now,” said Parker. “When you drive around Brooklyn, you see the long lines at food pantries, and it looks like the Depression.”

The “Universal Basic Income” program would be more easily implemented on the federal level, according to Parker, although the senator admits he’s skeptical of Congress’s ability to establish that kind of sweeping social program.

That could potentially change given the presidential candidacy of entrepreneur Andrew Yang, who has championed the idea during his long-shot bid for the White House — although Parker remains steadfast in his support of Yang’s rival, California Sen. Kamala Harris.

“I like Andrew Yang. He’s got some good ideas,” said Parker. “[But] there are a lot of other issues that are important for Americans, and particularly Brooklynites. I feel that Kamala Harris best speaks to those issues, and has more of a solution to some of those issues.”

So for now, Parker is focused on delivering a monthly check to his fellow New Yorkers — and that includes yours truly!

“In the full rollout of this, everybody gets the money — from Michael Bloomberg to an underpaid reporter at the Brooklyn Paper,” he said. “All of them are going to get this money.”

Reach reporter Aidan Graham at agraham@schnepsmedia.com or by calling (718) 260–4577. Follow him at twitter.com/aidangraham95.

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