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15 Things That Would Change If You Had A Guaranteed Basic Income

Ontario is giving it a try, but what would it actually mean for you?

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The Ontario government recently announced that it’s launching a basic income pilot project. While only 4,000 Ontarians will be involved in this trial run, we’re already wondering: How could a guaranteed basic income impact your life? Here’s what an expert had to say.

1. For starters, it means you’d have a financial safety net.

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If Ontario were to put in place a basic income program based on the pilot, single participants without disabilities would receive just under $17,000 annually. Tim Ellis, an advocate with the Basic Income Canada Network (BICN), told Buzzfeed Canada that while every generation would benefit from a basic income program, it would be extra good for millennials.

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2. Why? Because so many of us work “precarious jobs,” positions that are shady when it comes to their duration and pay.

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“With a basic income, there’s a peace of mind that comes and removes the precariousness from that work.” said Ellis.

3. But if you’re already using Ontario’s social programs, be aware that some of your existing benefits would likely be dropped.

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For example, according to the Income Security Advocacy Centre, pilot participants will lose access to such programs as provincially-funded vision benefits, upfront childcare costs, and the Special Diet Allowance.

4. As well, the provincial government has stated that in the pilot, “The basic income amount will decrease by $0.50 for every dollar an individual earns by working.”

5. And yes, people would still work if a basic income were available.

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When a similar pilot project ran in Dauphin, Manitoba, in the mid-1970s, the labour market was mostly unaffected.

However, as Ellis pointed out, "Young mothers tended to stay home a little longer with their kids and young men tended to stay in school instead of dropping out to work."

6. Because you're definitely not about to get rich through basic income alone.

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According to Ellis, the proposed amount is only 75% of the Low Income Measure, aka the government’s unofficial poverty line.

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7. And unless you’re already in the Ontario Disability Support Program or Ontario Works, a basic income wouldn’t get you any additional health coverage.

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But Ellis pointed out, “With the extra cash you may be able to afford better care,” when it comes to accessing mental health professionals, many of whom aren’t covered by Ontario’s provincial health care plan.

9. Additionally, just the existence of a basic income program could provide a psychological boost.

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According to Ellis, “knowing that you’re going to be taken care of” can greatly reduce your anxiety level.

10. It could also improve your health by allowing you to skip the 99 cent pasta and buy higher quality food.

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You could even go wild and purchase locally grown produce, maybe from that cute farmers’ market you’ve always rushed past.

11. The extra money would also give you more options on where you shop.

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Instead of scouring the sales rack at Old Navy, you could instead scour the sales rack of that local clothing boutique, which would also benefit local businesses.

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12. Having a reliable income would let you better plan your finances, too.

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“There’s no buffer zone when you’re poor,” said Ellis. But with a basic income, you could say bye-bye-bye to overdraft fees and late charges.

14. “Having a basic income gives you the ability to take time and build your community,” said Ellis.

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“You can focus more on volunteering, on engaging in politics, in local events, your church, whatever you’re interested in doing.”

15. So would a basic income program raise people's taxes?

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It’s too early to speculate on that, Daniel Schultz, a spokesperson with the Ontario Ministry of Community and Social Service told Buzzfeed Canada. How a full-fledged basic income program would be paid for is currently unknown.

“We’re conducting the pilot to try and figure out all of that," Schultz said.

But some proponents of a basic income say it doesn't have to be a drag on government revenues.

"Basic income will have the biggest impact on the lowest income folks, who tend to spend new income as soon as they get it," said Ellis. "That has an immediate stimulative impact on the economy, encouraging new spending, new hiring, and increased tax revenue.”

Of course before any of this becomes reality, the pilot project has to succeed. It won’t wrap up until 2019 so while a basic income sounds promising, don’t turn down that extra shift just yet.

CORRECTION

Information on possible changes to benefits, in item #3, comes from the Income Security Advocacy Centre. A previous version of this post misattributed it to another organization.

Contact Lindsay Kneteman at lauren.strapagiel+LindsayKneteman@buzzfeed.com.

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