By GABRIELLA DRAGONE
PATERSON, NJ – As the guaranteed income initiative nears the end of its one-year pilot program, Paterson residents and families who have been fortunate enough to have been chosen to receive it continues to share the advantages and benefits they have experienced with the money.
When Mayor Andre Sayegh first announced his intention to launch the initiative, he hoped it would help alleviate the financial burden of some. The program gave 110 random applicants $400 a month for one year.
This resident, who asked not to be identified, was born in the Dominican Republic and came to the United States shortly after. He has lived in several states throughout the East Coast, but has lived in Paterson for about 17 years.
“I grew up pretty poor,” the resident said. “We always had to move around a lot because we got kicked out from some places because we couldn’t make rent. Both of my parents weren’t able to go to college and get a formal career. My mother didn’t even finish high school, she ended up working at a young age in the Dominican Republic to help her family.”
Unlike his mother, the resident was able to finish high school and start college, however he had to drop out due to financial reasons. Currently, the resident lives in an apartment by himself and has not spoken to his parents.
The resident heard about the Guaranteed Income program through a voucher that he received through the Paterson nonprofit, NJCDC.
“One of my caseworkers sent me information about it [the Program],” the resident said. “I applied on a whim because I didn’t really think I was going to get it, and then I got an email saying that I was selected. I was in disbelief because I thought it was something that would get cutoff quickly or something was going to go wrong, but then I got the card and the money and I was a bit skeptical, but then I went to buy something with it and it actually worked.”
The resident told TAPinto Paterson that the program has helped incredibly as he has been living paycheck to paycheck. Once he started getting the $400, he decided to open a credit line and has been building credit and paying it off with the money.
Throughout his life, the resident would work at fast food restaurants, warehouses or temp agencies. Currently, he is unemployed.
“At one point, I just sort of gave up on everything because I felt like there was no point,” he said. “I wasn’t going anywhere. It was how society was. I was homeless for two years.”
As the program is coming to an end soon, the resident is concerned about the credit line he built throughout the year once he stops receiving the money.
“I haven’t really made it [the money] part of my actual budget,” he told TAPinto Paterson. “I knew it was only temporary to have, but I’m trying to not be too dependent on it. It’s making stuff easier, of course, but once it finishes I’ll just have to go back to how things were before. Cut down on stuff, try to find ways to get things cheaper, I’ll probably have to be walking more because I won’t be able to afford travel expenses and stuff like that.”
The resident added that the money from the program has helped his mood, decreasing stress. He has also worried less about money and resources.
“For the first time I’ve been able to save some money, which is an insane thing for me,” he said. “And it shouldn’t be an insane thing, especially in this country. We’re supposed to be able to move up.”