Imagine paying a San Francisco-high rent—during a pandemic, when you're an artist. With that in mind, the city is rolling out a plan to give 130 local artists a monthly income boost of $1,000 for 6 months starting in early 2021, ArtNet reports. It's part of San Francisco's new plan to throw nearly $6 million at cultural workers, arts organizations, teaching artists, and artists amid the economic brutality of COVID-19, per CBS San Francisco. But do the monthly payments really amount to a "universal basic income" project, as the city suggests? Critics say it's really a grant program for a select group of people.
"We've sort of gotten into the habit of cloaking anything that gives money to people as a universal basic income," Michael Tanner of the Cato Institute tells Reason. "This is a subsidy for artists." But Max Ghenis, president and founder of the UBI Center, says the "u" can mean "unconditional" rather than "universal." In his words, "The people selected for the program, once they start to get it, won't be subject to work requirements or other kinds of requirements that are accessed on other types of programs." But the city's artist problem seems bigger than COVID-19: Back in 2015, KQED reported on a survey that found more than 70% of San Francisco artists were leaving the city because of rising rents. (Read more universal basic income stories.)