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Stockton, California’s 27-year-old mayor promoted his welfare reform initiative that could serve as a model for other city and state governments to follow.

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Mayor Michael Tubbs appeared Tuesday at the Sacramento Press Club and defended the people who would receive cash payments from his Universal Basic Income (UBI) program, the Associated Press reported.

Critics doubt that the program, which would benefit former gun offenders and financially strapped families in the city, would succeed. Tubbs wants to disprove the idea that poor people will squander the funds on things like drugs.

Stockton’s basic income program, expected to launch early next year with a pilot of about 100 people, would be the first in the nation. The program will pay $500 monthly checks to low-income residents, a monthly stipend of up to $1,000 to rehabbed men likely to engage in gun violence and $1,000 college scholarships to public high school grads. Funding comes from private donations—not taxes.

UBI is an idea that a handful of countries, such as Finland and Uganda, have experimented with, according to CNN. Under the concept, residents receive a basic guaranteed income regardless of criteria, such as job status, wealth or age.

Tubbs wants to focus on low-income residents in his experiment, a move which has drawn criticism from those who deride it as a “cash for criminals” program that people will exploit, AP said.

“The majority of people are actually smart and rational. You trust folks; you give folks money, nine times out of 10 they’re not going to do any harm,” the mayor told his audience.

If it’s successful, Tubbs plans to sell the program to taxpayers and other governments.


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