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Published: Feb 15, 2022 4 min read
Female artist painting on canvas inside her Brooklyn apartment
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Artists in New York can now get paid $1,000 a month to create — no strings attached. The Empire State is rolling out a $125 million program called Creatives Rebuild New York, which is intended to give artists more freedom to focus on their work without the burden of financial uncertainty.

To be eligible for the money, artists must be able to demonstrate financial need. Ultimately, 2,400 people will be accepted into the program and receive the stipend. Another 300 artists will receive jobs with community organizations that pay $65,000 per year.

The program bills itself as an investment in stability.

“Artists need and deserve to be paid predictable and regular incomes,” the website reads.

The initiative is yet another experiment in guaranteed income, a cousin of universal basic income (aka UBI). Both policies have been around for decades, but they’re gaining mainstream popularity again thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, which has exacerbated financial difficulties for millions of Americans, as well as support from outspoken political candidates like Andrew Yang.

The idea is simple: Give people cash, without any restrictions or rules. The difference between UBI and guaranteed income is that the former generally distributes cash to broad swaths of people, while the latter tends to be targeted at specific groups, like artists or low-income folks.

Proponents of the policies say they can help reduce poverty and narrow the wealth gap by providing a financial cushion to help with basic needs and unexpected expenses. That reduces stress and makes it easier to stay out of debt, among lots of other benefits. Opponents say the policies are expensive, have the potential to undermine other social assistance programs and will discourage people from participating in the labor market.

Other states and cities have undertaken similar initiatives.

San Francisco and St. Paul, Minnesota, also have guaranteed income programs for artists, while Columbia, South Carolina, is piloting a program that will give $500 a month to fathers for two years. Durham, North Carolina, has a guaranteed income program aimed at formerly incarcerated people.

In 2018, the city of Stockton, California, tested a program that paid $500 per month to some of the city’s lowest-income residents, which studies showed ultimately improved participants’ job prospects and health. A similar program is underway in Newark, New Jersey.

Of course, the federal government has recently employed the guaranteed income concept on a much larger scale through its COVID-19 stimulus checks and advance monthly payments of the expanded child tax credit.

A December analysis by Bloomberg CityLab found that at least 20 guaranteed income programs have started nationwide since 2018. The same report estimates that monthly payments of up to $1,000 are now reaching more than 5,400 people and families.

The deadline to submit applications for New York’s new program is March 25. Participants will be announced in June.

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