Basic Income is the Wrong Solution for Atlanta’s Poor

Basic Income is the Wrong Solution for Atlanta’s Poor

Basic Income is the Wrong Solution for Atlanta’s Poor

Hope and help is the only true solution.

Originally posted on RealClearPolitics.

Three hundred Atlanta residents are poised to receive $500 per month for a year, no strings attached. It’s part of a nationwide “basic guaranteed income” experiment largely bankrolled by Twitter founder and former CEO Jack Dorsey.

To qualify for the pilot program, residents must be 18 years or older and have a maximum income of 200% of the federal poverty threshold ($53,000 for a family of four). The ultimate goal is to gauge how the guaranteed payments impact residents’ economic, mental, and physical health.


The Alliance for Opportunity is focused on a mission to reduce those in poverty by 1 million over the next 10 years.

A noble mission with failed outcomes

The mission of this pilot is laudable in attempting to help lower-income Atlanta residents during particularly trying times. But there are reasons to proceed with caution. A significant reason is how these payments could provide a perverse incentive that would discourage people from finding work or moving up the economic ladder. 

Ultimately, we believe there is a better way forward that supports dignity and opportunity for those in need. The mission should be to empower lower-income earners to attain a better life.

For Atlanta to make a real difference in seeking innovative solutions to providing poverty relief, the city must focus on giving those in need opportunity, not simply pity. Most people living in poverty want to provide for their families, get ahead, and live dignified, self-sufficient lives.

In 2020, the poverty rate in Georgia was 21.3%. Major welfare programs in the Peach State in September 2021 had around 3.9 million residents enrolled.  

A key is to improve opportunities to work while giving greater flexibility to our neighbors. This can be done in changing how they may use their temporary government assistance payments to meet their current needs while setting them up for self-sufficiency later. 


Exploring Empowerment Accounts

One innovative idea that would do just that are Empowerment Accounts.

These accounts would provide safety net funding to certain eligible recipients on a debit card. To qualify, people would need to be working, training, or being educated while meeting with a community case manager. The program also includes a financial literacy and savings component that paves the way for recipients to pay for long-term needs. 

Atlanta leaders could test these Empowerment Accounts in a pilot project, funded at first by philanthropists.

Why are Empowerment Accounts a better solution than basic guaranteed income?

Their primary benefit is that they treat each recipient as an individual with a long-term upward trajectory. We must help the impoverished through immediate aid, but the best long-term solution to poverty is through creating incentives and opportunities for work. This combination of work and community support will help build the hope and social capital too often lost with the current safety net system.

If implemented on a state or even national scale, Empowerment Accounts would also provide a crucial reform to our flawed safety-net system. 

They would condense and replace the overstretched, wasteful programs into one consolidated, more effective program. By reducing bureaucratic bloat and streamlining payments, more resources would go to needy families while fostering eventual financial independence.

Another benefit of Empowerment Accounts over the current safety-net system is that they would eliminate burdensome benefit cliffs when current programs end. Safety net recipients are often discouraged from earning an additional dollar because the cliffs often trap them in a system they yearn to escape. As a solution, Empowerment Accounts funding would taper over a specified period and any savings would stay with the recipient, helping with the problem of a benefit cliff.

The goal of Atlanta’s basic income experiment is commendable, but as with so much in the charitable and welfare sectors, it is misguided. It oversimplifies the struggles of low-income Georgians and falls well short of providing a comprehensive way forward — which should be centered around providing a path to self-sufficiency.

This was originally posted on RealClearPolitics.


GCO launches anti-poverty policy site as part of Alliance for Opportunity project

GCO launches anti-poverty policy site as part of Alliance for Opportunity project

GCO launches anti-poverty policy site as part of Alliance for Opportunity project

Alliance for Opportunity announces new policy roadmap to reduce poverty

The Georgia Center for Opportunity launched a resource that provides key policy recommendations for reducing the number of people in poverty as part of their newly formed Alliance for Opportunity project. The recommendations are based on creating generational transformation in Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas, but the policy implications can be applied nationally as well. On the website, policymakers will see an explanation of how the safety net is failing, the path forward, and practical policy options that state leaders can act on now to advance a comprehensive and transformative safety-net reform.

The Alliance for Opportunity is a collaborative initiative between the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF), the Pelican Institute for Public Policy (Pelican Institute) in Louisiana, and the Georgia Center for Opportunity (GCO). It is designed to promote solutions and build the political will to present and advance a comprehensive and compelling plan for reform to alleviate poverty by allowing people to find work and opportunities that will lead to a flourishing life.


The Alliance for Opportunity is focused on a mission to reduce those in poverty by 1 million over the next 10 years.

According to 2020 federal Supplemental Poverty Measure numbers, Georgia had 1,383,000, Louisiana had 869,000, and Texas had 3,601,000 residents in poverty.

The goal of the Alliance for Opportunity is that over the next 10 years, we reduce the number of people in poverty (defined above) by 20% in each state. That means 1 million people out of poverty: 276,600 people in Georgia, 173,800 people in Louisiana, and 720,200 people in Texas.

“We couldn’t be more thrilled with this new online portal that will be the go-to place for policymakers to find solutions to the most pressing poverty issues in our culture today,” said Randy Hicks, president and CEO of the Georgia Center for Opportunity. “Simply put, the U.S. safety net needs a paradigm shift. Our low-income neighbors deserve to move out of dependency, find lasting self-sufficiency, and flourish. The status quo is unacceptable.”

You can read the full press release from the Alliance HERE.


GCO’s Take: The House Bill 999 “Georgia Educational Freedom Act”

GCO’s Take: The House Bill 999 “Georgia Educational Freedom Act”

GCO’s Take: The House Bill 999 “Georgia Educational Freedom Act”

child remote learning

GCO’s Take: The House Bill 999 “Georgia Educational Freedom Act”

The Georgia Center For Opportunity applauds the introduction of House Bill 999, the Georgia Educational Freedom Act. The legislation would create new Education Scholarship Accounts (ESAs) funded by the state in the amount of $6,000 for students for each school year.

GCO’s take: “We believe these types of steps give kids a fighting chance,” said Buzz Brockway, GCO’s vice president of public policy. “All Georgia’s kids deserve quality education and that includes students who may need additional help or need a different learning environment. This bill keeps our public school funding in place for the vast majority who access it while giving a lifeline to those left without opportunity or hope.A public education system should ensure that all students have access to quality education, no matter their race, past mistakes, or circumstances of their birth. This bill opens that door for kids in our state.”


Buzz statement

State Unemployment December 2021 Statistics

State Unemployment December 2021 Statistics

State Unemployment December 2021 Statistics

closed covid-19

Today, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics announced state unemployment numbers from December 2021.

 The results put Georgia as 6th best in the nation for jobs recovered since the beginning of the pandemic. Utah, Idaho, Texas, and Arizona lead the pack, with Utah the run-away leader in labor force recovery.

The Georgia Center for Opportunity’s (GCO) take: “An important factor aggravating the wide disparity among the states in the jobs recovery is out-migration. Many workers—and businesses who are taking jobs with them—are voting with their feet by moving out of states that imposed more severe COVID-19 shutdown measures compared to states that were less severe, including Georgia,” said Erik Randolph, GCO’s director of research.

For more, read Randolph’s research report on the economic impact of the pandemic shutdowns.


School choice story: How Hudson’s life was transformed in a matter of months

School choice story: How Hudson’s life was transformed in a matter of months

School choice story: How Hudson’s life was transformed in a matter of months

Hudson’s Story

Hudson is the third born in a family of five boys. His mom, Kristen, shared that both she and her husband went to public schools and they support the local system.

“We’ve always just said that we would send our kids to public school as long as there weren’t any type of issues,” Kristen said.

It was a no-brainer that they chose to enroll Hudson in a public school kindergarten. And he did well. But beginning in first grade, Kristen began to notice some problems with Hudson’s reading ability. He excelled in math and was considered gifted there, but he struggled with reading.

Kristen began using a private tutor to help Hudson with his reading and speech. By third grade, Hudson had an official diagnosis of a reading disability and a processing disability. The public school gave him an Individualized Education Plan (IEP).

Going into fourth grade, Kristen was concerned that Hudson would get lost in the larger class size, going from about 20 kids per class to 30.

The last straw was that Hudson would cry every morning before going to school. “We weren’t used to kids not liking school,” Kristen said. “He was just so upset every day. He just didn’t want to go.”

At that point, Kristen and her husband made a decision—to move Hudson from the local public school to The Bedford School in Fairburn, Georgia.

Now at the Bedford School, Hudson is thriving. His class size is no more than 10 students.

“At Bedford, I like to write, do social studies, reading class, and also math,” Hudson said. “I can tell that I’ve improved my reading and writing.”

Before, Hudson would stay quiet in class, embarrassed that he was behind in his subjects. But now at the Bedford School, his confidence has soared. Hudson is involved with intramural sports at Bedford and the kids are supportive of one another, always high-fiving.

What’s more, all of his teachers truly know him and take the time to provide individualized attention.

More Options for More Families

“The school’s goal is to teach the kids how to learn and then turn them over back into a different traditional school system, whether that’s public or private, but not at Bedford anymore, which is good because it’s helping them learn how to succeed in a more normal environment,” Kristen said.

“I feel that the public school is just limited because of all the government roles and the paperwork, and the processes that they have to go through, which they don’t have at Bedford. What a difference there has been with him just being there a few months,” she added.

Thankfully, Hudson was able to attend the Bedford School due to financial support through the Georgia Special Needs Scholarship Program, which covers around one-fourth of the tuition.

Children like Hudson across Georgia need the same kind of support. It’s crucial that Georgia offers educational alternatives to all students, not just those in the right zip code or whose families can afford it. That is why we must continue to support the Georgia Tax Credit Scholarship Program, the Georgia Special Needs Scholarship Program, and work to create Education Scholarship Accounts for all Georgia students.