Education Reform Massachusetts Poverty

Reimagining Capitalism in Chelsea, Massachusetts

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The Boston Globe reports that Chelsea, Mass., is about to launch a bold experiment in addressing the persistent problem of poverty.

Chelsea, one of the poorest cities in the state, is about to host a bold experiment in reimagining capitalism, one that may answer an age-old question: Can giving away money with no strings attached help people out of poverty?

Beginning in November, about 2,000 low-income families will be given $200 to $400 a month, money that can be used for anything from food to paying bills. The trial, with $3 million in seed money and set to run for four months at first, is a version of the universal basic income concept that has long been debated, tested in small measures, but not implemented by any country. Tech entrepreneur Andrew Yang made it a plank of his brief presidential campaign.

The Chelsea pilot may seem like a simple way to support families living on the brink during the pandemic, but the social experiment could have broader implications — perhaps shedding light on the argument over whether giving money away without conditions encourages poor people to quit their jobs or spend it unwisely, or empowers them to make decisions to break the cycle of poverty…

To United Way chief executive Bob Giannino, the real value of the Chelsea pilot is removing the indignities of receiving public assistance — whether it’s standing in line for food or battling a bureaucracy for benefits. Giannino knows the feeling too well, having grown up in a family that relied on government handouts.

“The tactic is putting money on a card so people can buy their own food,” Giannino said of the Chelsea program. “The strategy is independence. The strategy is dignity.”

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