How Tacoma’s yearlong guaranteed income experiment fared

Seattle Times

When the pandemic hit in 2020, Debbie Wilkerson decided to retire early from her job at Jack-in-the-Box. 

But it wasn’t really by choice, said the 64-year-old Tacoma resident. With schools shut down, she needed to home-school her 13-year-old grandson, James Carcione, who is on the autism spectrum, while her son continued to go to work. 

Already struggling under a crush of debt — a hodgepodge of overdue bills, collection calls, court fines — the Wilkerson family’s financial precarity worsened during the pandemic. They made just $22 too much each month to qualify for many COVID-19 rent and utility relief programs, she said. 

“When you’re living check to check, you know, it’s hard to catch up and pay it off,” she said. 

But then the family caught a break. Wilkerson’s family was selected as one of 110 households in Tacoma to receive $500 a month for 12 months as part of a guaranteed income program. Called Growing Resilience In Tacoma, or GRIT, the program distributed the final cash payments to families last month. 

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