Money for CollegeBound Boost, of course, isn’t free – Twin Cities

St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter last week announced phase two of his free money program, a program called CollegeBound Boost. The first phase, announced in November 2020, was called the Guaranteed Income for People Prosperity Pilot.

How many consultants or new cabinet members were brought aboard Carter’s sinking ship to come up with these schemes remains unknown.

Joe Soucheray

Money, of course, is not free. Carter, with City Council approval, is using federal coronavirus relief grants as well as donor money. It was $1.5 million in phase one.

In phase two, 333 families will receive $1,000 added to their CollegeBound Boost accounts and 333 additional families will receive the same $1,000 for college plus two full years of $500 monthly checks. Eligibility requires a family to be enrolled in CollegeBound Boost and have an income no more than three times the federal poverty level. Phase two requires $4 million in pandemic relief funds – no, I don’t know what pandemic relief funds have to do with guaranteed income – and $1 million from souls charities.

What generosity. The federal poverty level for a family of four in 2020 is an annual income of $26,200. A family of four can then have an income of $78,600 and still qualify.

It’s probably just me, but I get the feeling Carter doesn’t like being the mayor of St. Paul. The basics are a mess. The streets are inconvenient, homeless camps occupy the riverfront, crime is rampant, the green line isn’t safe to use and the city center is a real pain.

Perhaps he’s waiting for a call from the Biden administration with a job offer much more in line with his grand and expensive visions. These visions are only to become dearer. When the pandemic relief tap is closed, probably in two years, it would be unwise to think that the program will end. These things never end. Property taxpayers will be on the hook.

Speaking of which, won’t the city face significant budget issues in the years to come? For example, there was a recent court ruling that prevents the city from assessing individual homeowners for street repairs. And the poorly thought out rent control ordinance drives down the value of rental units, generating less tax dollars.

It seems inappropriate to focus on an unconditional Guaranteed Basic Income program, all funded with taxpayers’ money that is destined to run out, requiring a new source of funding.

Fortunately and, well, shockingly, the city will compare the results between three groups, those who only receive university money, those who receive university money and monthly income checks and a third control group of 333 families who receive neither. William Elliott, a professor at the University of Michigan and a leading researcher on college savings accounts for children, will evaluate the program. With the rapidly deteriorating city around us, at least we have a chance to find out if this program actually worked.

“Guaranteed income helps parents get through a month,” Elliott said in a statement released by the city. “But saving for the future – through city savings deposits – gives families tangible hope for the future of their children.”

Great.

But given gas prices and the rate of inflation, there are a lot of families trying to make it through the end of the month and they’ve never been guaranteed anything, let alone an income.

Joe Soucheray can be reached at [email protected] Soucheray’s “Garage Logic” podcast can be heard at garagelogic.com.

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