PATERSON, NJ — Just weeks after the application period expired for Paterson’s guaranteed income pilot program, Mayor André Sayegh has confirmed that the initiative gained a $50,000 gift from a prominent local real estate investor.
Florio Management—a construction firm responsible for multiple housing and retail developments in Paterson every year—signed off on the contribution. Charles Florio, the company’s CEO, told TAPinto Paterson that he ultimately decided to donate based on his discussions with Sayegh about the program and his own research on the potential benefits of monthly direct payments for city residents.
“To sum it up, it’s a basic need for people to have food, clothing, pay for school supplies, transportation, copays for medical, etcetera,” Florio said. “So, I just wanted to…play my part because my business is in Paterson.”
Florio said he first learned about guaranteed income by following the presidential campaign of entrepreneur and former Democratic candidate Andrew Yang, who ran on a platform of paying all American adults $1,000 per month. Paterson’s pilot will give $400 monthly payments via debit card to a test group of 110 adult residents for one year.
Applications for the pilot, which closed on April 30 after garnering more than 4,000 responses, specified that individual participants must have a maximum income of $30,000, or a total family income of $88,000 at most.
Mayor Sayegh described that the donation, a commitment Florio said he made three months ago, allowed the pilot program to grow from 70 participants to 110. While increasing the sample size reduced the monthly payments from $500 to $400, Sayegh said that it enables the city to better evaluate how guaranteed income could work on a larger scale.
Both Sayegh and Florio were optimistic that the contribution would influence donors to continue stepping forward. Sayegh wants guaranteed income to be a permanent fixture in Paterson, a city with nearly 27 percent of its population living in poverty and a median household income of just over $41,000, according to the Census.
“It doesn’t have to be $50,000, right? It’s all a numbers game,” Florio said, discussing ways to motivate future donations to the program. “It can be $50, and people should really help one another out.”
Florio added that he hoped to inspire the generosity of real estate investors who receive financial incentives for developing in Paterson, as he does. He called on those involved in municipal construction projects to “reach into their pocket and help out the community that they’re trying to build up.”
And if Paterson determines that guaranteed income helped the pilot’s participants, Florio expressed a willingness to annually keep his monetary commitment to the program.
The news of Florio’s donation coincides with the start of Newark’s guaranteed income initiative on Monday, a plan providing 30 participants in New Jersey’s most populous city with $500 per month for two years. Like Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, Sayegh is also collaborating with Mayors for a Guaranteed Income (MGI), a nationwide panel of local leaders who support direct payments for their residents.
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey donated $15 million to MGI last December, of which Paterson obtained $500,000 to launch its pilot. Sayegh explained that the city combined Florio’s contribution with its MGI funding to expand the program’s capacity.
“He’s a very generous individual,” Sayegh said of Florio. “And his investment in Paterson goes beyond brick and mortar.”