About Us Contact Us Privacy Policy
© GOOD Worldwide Inc. All Rights Reserved.

A California city gave people $500 "free money" resulting in better health and finding stable jobs

The Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration (SEED) was founded in February 2019 by then-Mayor Michael Tubbs.

A California city gave people $500 "free money" resulting in better health and finding stable jobs
Then-Mayor of Stockton, California, Michael Tubbs attends Rihanna's 5th Annual Diamond Ball at Cipriani Wall Street on September 12, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Steven Ferdman/Getty Images)

The city of Stockton, California conducted an income experiment two years ago where they gave "free money" of $500 a month to 125 people for 24 months. There were no strings attached to this money. Meaning the recipients could do whatever they wanted with it. The program known as SEED or The Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration was founded in February 2019 by then-Mayor Michael Tubbs. It was funded by donors, including the Economic Security Project. A study from 2019 to 2020 revealed that SEED helped recipients improve their financial, physical, and emotional health, reports NPR.


But didn't people lose their incentive to work? Did they want to spend the extra cash on necessities or trivial items? What did they do with this guaranteed income? According to CBS News, recipients ended up bettering their lives! They were able to secure full-time employment, their health was better and they were even better partners and parents! Who knew welfare would be beneficial, eh?


Tomas Vargas Jr. who received $500 every month for 24 months as part of the program said the money helped him move from working part-time as a warehouse supervisor to full-time employment. "I was getting paid okay, but before SEED, I had to hustle every day," he said at a press conference to talk about the effects of the program from its first year. "SEED gave me the opportunity to sit there and actually do something with myself and the choices I was making. It gave me that reassurance. It gave me a chance, an opportunity," he said. "I am doing better things. I'm getting paid way more than I did before, [I have] less stress and I'm actually helping my community. So there are big changes. I was very depressed. I was very, just, down and out. SEED [helped] bring me back," Vargas added. "Every day I get to wake up and enjoy my kids ... my wife. We enjoy time together; we didn't have that before." Vargas also added that he is now a better parent and partner to his wife.


Tubbs who served as mayor of Stockton from 2017 to 2021 said that most people did not have the time to take off to find a permanent job. Having the extra cash helped them in this regard. "When you are working hourly, you don't have paid time off. Taking a risk to take a day off and interview is risky, particularly if you are living paycheck to paycheck." Amy Castro Baker, assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania and a co-author of the program's economic analysis. "The $500 removed material barriers to full-time employment and created capacity for goal-setting and risk-taking. So what this means, practically speaking, is that there are a lot of folks out there who were eligible for full-time employment, but literally could not take a single shift off of work to apply for a new job."


Simply put, the "extra money" gave recipients the stability they needed to create goals, take risks, and find new jobs. It eased their stress and helped them be more focused on making their lives better instead of being burned out from financial burdens and struggles. "The last year has shown us that far too many people were living on the financial edge, and were pushed over it by COVID-19," Tubbs said in a statement as per NPR. "SEED gave people the dignity to make their own choices, the ability to live up to their potential and improved economic stability going into the turmoil of the pandemic." One time, Tubbs also argued that more financial stability would "make people work better and smarter and harder," as well as make it possible to spend time with their families and participate in their communities. Wouldn't more cities want to work towards something like this to help better the lives of their residents? We hope something feasible can be churned out for everyone. 


More Stories on Scoop