Representative Ilhan Omar, along with other progressive Democratic lawmakers, proposed legislation that would dole out regular stimulus checks—or guaranteed income—through monthly payments of up to $1,200 for adults and $600 for children.
The Minnesota congresswoman announced the proposal on Friday, saying that “poverty is a choice” in a press release and a Twitter post about the proposed legislation. Fellow Democratic Representatives Dwight Evans of Pennsylvania, Marie Newman of Illinois, and Jamaal Bowman of New York also endorsed the bill.
“For too long we have prioritized endless growth while millions are homeless, hungry or without healthcare,” Omar said in an official statement about the bill. “The pandemic has laid bare these inequalities. We as a nation have the ability to make sure everyone has their basic needs like food, housing and healthcare met.”
Omar pointed to pilot programs in various places across the country that have provided guaranteed income to some Americans. The congresswoman argued that the U.S. should “become the leader in measuring and safeguarding our people’s economic well-being,” saying her legislation would be a start in that direction.
“We need a paradigm shift in how we measure and evaluate our economy,” Bowman said in a statement. “If my district, New York’s 16th, was a country, it would have the 8th worst inequality in the world. Our barometers for economic success, as well as our policies, must be centered around meeting basic levels of care and dignity for all of our people.”
The program, if the legislation were to pass, would not immediately begin sending out $1,200 checks to most Americans. Instead, it would create a $2.5 billion grant program to fund pilot guaranteed income programs across the country. The programs would be studied from 2023 to 2027 and then the national program would begin in 2028, Minneapolis’ WCCO-TV reported.
Then the legislation would provide $1,200 per month to people making $75,000 or less per year. The heads of households with an income of up to $112,500 would receive $1,200 under the program. And $600 would be provided for each minor child.
The guaranteed income plan’s structure is similar to that of the three stimulus checks that were sent out by the federal government amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Through the bipartisan CARES Act in March 2020, the government provided most Americans with one-time payments of up to $1,200, plus additional funding for minor children. A follow-up bipartisan stimulus package in December 2020 provided another round of $600 direct payments for most Americans.
After President Joe Biden took office, Democratic lawmakers pushed through his American Rescue Plan without any Republican support. That legislation provided another round of $1,400 stimulus checks for most Americans. It also implemented a new Child Tax Credit system, which went into effect last month. Under that plan, parents and guardians have begun to receive $300 per month for each child under the age of six. They also receive $250 per month for each child between the ages of six and 17.
Whether Omar’s proposed legislation moves forward in Congress remains to be seen, but guaranteed income programs have received increasing public interest in recent years. Former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang helped to popularize the idea through his unsuccessful 2020 campaign, during which he promised to create a “Freedom Dividend” program providing $1,000 per month for all Americans.
Newsweek reached out to Omar’s press office for further comment but did not receive a response in time for publication.