How a Basic Income Plan Could Save Lives in a Pandemic

Welland Tribune

A basic income program could have saved lives and reduced COVID-19 transmission when the pandemic struck last spring, says one of the country’s leading experts.

And basic income, as both a health and a poverty reduction policy, could still help people weather the second wave and those to come, said Evelyn Forget.

“When government decided that it was a public health emergency response and they closed down the economy in March,” said Forget in an interview, “they knew immediately that the social programs wouldn’t work, and that we had to put emergency supports in place if we were going to keep people home.”

A slew of emergency response measures for individuals and businesses were rolled out with a swiftness that proved “getting money into people’s pockets isn’t rocket science,” said Forget, a professor at the University of Manitoba.

“But if we had a basic income, we wouldn’t have had to do any of that,” she noted.

Basic income is a set of government programs guaranteeing individuals an income above the poverty line, regardless of employment status or ability. Programs aim to reduce poverty and improve well-being and ensure people can meet their basic needs, and have taken many forms in countries like Finland, Iran, the Netherlands and Kenya.

Forget is an economist in the department of community health sciences who has been studying basic income and its possibilities for decades, including the Mincome pilot program in Manitoba in the 1970s.

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