Ithaca pilot program provides guaranteed income for some caregivers

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Mayor Svante Myrick compared the Ithaca Guaranteed Income program to federal stimulus checks sent out earlier in the pandemic. (Megan Zerez/WSKG)

ITHACA, NY (WSKG) — The City of Ithaca will soon begin a guaranteed income pilot program. It’s intended for lower and middle-income residents who are primary caregivers. Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick announced the program last week on Twitter. 

More than 100 Ithaca residents will receive monthly payments of $450 for one year with no strings attached. That money is like a paycheck, it can be used to cover any costs the recipient might have.

There are some requirements; households cannot earn more than 80% of the city’s median income. For a family of four, that’s about $70,000. 

Applicants also have to be the primary caregiver for someone, like a child or an elderly parent, who are not being compensated for that work. They also must reside within the City of Ithaca.

Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick has been a proponent of guaranteed income programs. Myrick said the $450 is not intended as a replacement for income, but as an “income floor,” meant to help with emergencies.

“This sort of income floor doesn’t replace income, but helps people keep the jobs they have and succeed in getting better paying jobs that can better support their families,” Myrick said. “So this is about dignity. It’s not just about dollars.”

Myrick said he hopes the program will also help people avoid evictions, which will soon resume around the state.

“In Ithaca we know especially that our challenges center around housing,” Myrick said. “Fifty-six percent of all Ithaca tenants are cost-burdened. That means they spent more than 30% of their income on their rent.”

The cost of housing in Ithaca is significantly higher than in the rest of the Southern Tier. On average, fair market rent in Ithaca costs about 50% more than in nearby Cortland, according to data from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. 

The pilot program will be funded through private grants from non-profit organizations. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania will collect and analyze data on the impact of those monthly payments, which can help the city determine if the program should be expanded.

Applications and additional information are available online from December 10-17.