Joe Malinconico Paterson Press
PATERSON — The City Council seems set to sign off on a program launched by the mayor that would provide 110 Paterson families with $400 per month for one year with no restrictions on how they spend the money.
Residents later this month will be able to submit applications to participate in a lottery for the 110 slots, a drawing that will be conducted by the Center for Guaranteed Income Research at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Social Policy and Practice, officials said.
Those selected to get the monthly installments of $400 would be part of a study being conducted by Penn to examine the impact of the extra money on the recipients’ lives, officials said.
Another 44 individuals and families would be picked to be part of “a control group” that would not get the added income and would be used by the school as a basis for comparison. Those in the control group would receive things like gift cards in return for their participation, officials said.
Paterson will be one of about 14 cities around the country participating in the Penn study. The money given to participants will come from a $15 million donation that Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey made to a group called Mayors for Guaranteed Income, officials said.
The City Council discussed the program Tuesday night and is scheduled to vote on whether to approve Paterson’s participation at its meeting next week. Mayor Andre Sayegh has been talking about the initiative for about a year and recently has been holding virtual community and town hall meetings about it. Sayegh said families will not get cash or checks, but debit cards they can use to make purchases.
Councilman Shahin Khalique said some city residents have been confused about who will pick the people getting the money for the study. Sayegh administration officials said applications will go directly to Penn and that the lottery will be conducted by the university.
“The council is not choosing; the mayor is not choosing,” said Business Administrator Kathleen Long.
The income limits for participants are $30,000 for individuals and $88,000 for families, officials said. Applicants must be Paterson residents and ages 18 and above.
Councilman Luis Velez expressed concern about public perception of the guaranteed income program because the city has a mayoral election next year.
“We don’t want to send a wrong message,” Velez said. “We’re in an election cycle. It can be used for political gain.”
Velez suggested the city should run the program through its human services department instead of the mayor’s office. But Councilman Al Abdelaziz said his colleague should focus on the positive aspects of the program and not worry about which city office is handling it.
“It could come out of the chief custodian’s office as long as the checks get to the families,” Abdelaziz said.
Councilman Michael Jackson questioned the income limits for the program, saying someone making about $25,000 per year would have much greater need for the extra money than families with annual incomes around $75,000.
Sayegh administration officials said the income restrictions were based on “living wage” guidelines for New Jersey.
City officials said residents with questions about the program should text them to 973-531-7301.