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City Hall on March 2, 2021.

Credit: Maya Pratt

Penn will jointly operate one of Philadelphia's two experimental pilot programs studying the impact of guaranteed income policies on the city's low-income population.

The University of Pennsylvania and Philadelphia’s Housing Development Corporation will jointly operate one of the initiatives, which will focus on housing and be launched in the spring, the Inquirer reported. Philadelphia’s Office of Community Empowerment and Opportunity will execute the other program, which will run for at least a year, providing roughly 60 people with $500 per month to spend at their discretion. 

The first initiative will specifically examine rent-burdened households in public housing and may begin next month. Vincent Reina, Penn City and Regional Planning professor and co-designer of Philadelphia’s first citywide housing plan, shaped the framework of the initiative. Households will receive cash for two to three years in the program, which was paid for by public money and philanthropic donations, Reina told the Inquirer.

The program is expected to subsidize 300 families, paying out the difference between the cost of their rent and 30% of their income. 

Participants in the other study will be selected from a pool of 1,100 residents who received funding from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families — a state-run welfare program for necessities like food, shelter, and utilities — for the past five years. They will also receive professional help on career development. Researchers plan to identify whether the cash infusions will help participants gain financial independence from TANF. 

Last year, over 20 cities in the United States conducted similar experiments which provided select residents with cash. For instance, Amy Castro Baker — a professor at Penn’s School of Social Policy & Practice — investigated a guaranteed-income program which gave $500 per month for 24 months to Stockton, Calif. households living below the city's median income. The study found that participants securing full-time jobs jumped from 28% to 40%, compared to a 5% boost in the control group.