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Twitter billionaire Jack Dorsey just announced he'll fund a universal-basic-income experiment that could affect up to 7 million people

Twitter billionaire Jack Dorsey just announced he'll fund a universal-basic-income experiment that could affect up to 7 million people
Twitter billionaire Jack Dorsey just announced he'll fund a universal-basic-income experiment that could affect up to 7 million people
Dorsey's fellow Silicon Valley billionaires Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg also think a universal basic income could help poor Americans.
  • On Thursday, Jack Dorsey, the billionaire CEO of Twitter, announced that he would donate $3 million to a group of mayors of more than a dozen US cities to fund universal-basic-income pilot programs.
  • Andrew Yang, a former Democratic presidential candidate, recently helped bring the idea of universal basic income into the mainstream and is funding his own UBI pilot program.
  • Proponents say guaranteed incomes could help close America's growing wealth gap, while critics say they could compound America's financial crisis by encouraging people to stop working.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Jack Dorsey, the billionaire cofounder of Twitter, is spending millions to experiment with universal basic income.

Dorsey said on Thursday that he would donate $3 million to Mayors for a Guaranteed Income, a group of mayors of more than a dozen US cities who plan to launch guaranteed-income pilot programs in their cities and lobby federal lawyers to consider a national one too.

The group has said the pilot programs could affect about 7 million Americans in cities including Los Angeles; Atlanta; Newark, New Jersey; and Jackson, Mississippi.

The coalition says that giving people a guaranteed income could lift people out of poverty and cushion the economic and career blows of the coronavirus crisis.

Dorsey, who has built up a net worth of $7.5 billion, said he would sink $3 million from his nonprofit into the program. In April, Dorsey made a widely publicized pledge to donate $1 billion to coronavirus relief efforts.

The group has not specified who would be eligible for payments and how much they would receive. In a statement, it said it envisioned the basic income as a flexible supplement to existing social programs.

At least two cities - Jackson and Stockton, California - represented in the mayors' coalition already have guaranteed-income pilot programs, while Chicago, Newark, and Atlanta have task forces to explore programs of their own, according to the group's website.

Proponents say - and research has suggested - that a guaranteed income could be the best way to level the wealth divide between the richest and poorest Americans, a chasm that has grown even wider during the coronavirus pandemic. Critics of basic incomes say the economic effects of such proposals haven't been thoroughly researched and could stop recipients from working.

Dorsey isn't the only wealthy American experimenting with universal basic income. Andrew Yang, the entrepreneur and former Democratic presidential candidate, announced in May that he would give $500 to 20 New Yorkers every month for the next five years through his nonprofit to test the effects of the policy.

Yang made his universal-basic-income proposal - a scheme called the Freedom Dividend that would pay American adults $1,000 monthly - a central part of his presidential campaign.

Once considered an unlikely policy proposal championed largely by Silicon Valley titans like Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk, guaranteed income has gained traction with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

UBI proposals can be traced back as far as the 16th century and have been floated throughout American history by a wide range of leaders including Thomas Payne and Martin Luther King Jr. The one-time $1,200 stimulus checks many Americans received earlier this year as a part of the CARES Act were essentially an interim basic income.

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