A universal basic income could help counter COVID-19's economic damage

CBC News

"Be fast and have no regrets."

That was the defining quote from the March 13 COVID-19 briefing at the World Health Organization, spoken by Dr. Michael Ryan, the World Health Organization (WHO) executive director of health emergencies. "Speed trumps perfection," he added. "The greatest error is not to move."

It's a piece of advice that is worthy of consideration not just in the health policies Canada is putting forward to combat the effects of coronavirus, but in economic policy as well.

If we are to consider radical and fast action in medical terms, we should also consider radical and fast action in economic terms: a Universal Basic Income (UBI).

The basic idea behind UBI is exactly what it says on the tin: regular, government-funded cash payments for citizens, with either no restrictions or minimal requirements on who can access it. We've recently seen Basic Income programs for segments of the population, like with Ontario's 2018 Basic Income project for 4,000 low- or no-income individuals, but UBI would, in theory, be cash payments for all.

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