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$500 a month for a year, no strings attached | Who's eligible for Louisville's guaranteed income program?

The goal of YALift! is to provide opportunities and a financial foundation for people who are transitioning into the working world.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Louisville has been added to the map of cities piloting programs geared toward alleviating financial burdens for young adults.

Mayor Greg Fischer was joined by community partners with Metro United Way and Russell, A Place of Promise to announce the launch of the Young Adult Louisville Income for Transformation (YALift!) program Friday.

The guaranteed income program will provide $500 a month, no strings attached, to 150 young people between the ages of 18 to 24 in the Russell, California and Smoketown neighborhoods for one year. 

The goal of YALift! is to provide opportunities and a financial foundation for people who are transitioning into the working world.

"It seems almost too simple to say, but the answer to poverty is money," Fischer said. "Poverty is a lack of resources, often a systemic lack of resources, not a personal failing."

Fischer said the neighborhoods eligible for the pilot program were chosen based on data that shows concentrated poverty and large gaps in education, employment and life expectancy in those areas.

"I think this is a great first step," said Davy Adams, a supervisor with Garden Girl Foods. "A lot of people just need help and they may not come from the same kind of resources or be given the same kind of choices."

The money can be used however the recipient chooses, on things like food, rent, education and childcare. According to a release from the city, the program allows young people to have "breathing room" so they can explore options and opportunities that may have been previously out of reach due to a lack of finances.

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Adams said right now, many young people are struggling. In addition, the obstacles created by the coronavirus pandemic have caused many to fall behind. 

"Food insecurity is on the rise, so that could be used for groceries," Adams said. "I mean, there is just so much you can do with 500 dollars."

Fischer acknowledged that there would likely be criticism toward the program from people who viewed the money as a "handout" or an excuse not to work. He said those who oppose YALift! have a "basic misunderstanding of people."

During Friday's press conference, the mayor talked about the success of a pilot program in Stockton, California. He said participants in that program were twice as likely to get a full-time job and had lower reported cases of anxiety and depression.

"We are motivated by the successful results from similar pilots in other cities, including increased participation in the workforce, increased wellbeing, more financially secure families, and more activity in our local economy,” said Adria Johnson, president and CEO of Metro United Way.

Louisville will be the 20th city in the United States to adopt a guaranteed income program. Adams hopes this first step will encourage other areas to adopt similar ideas.

"This is too good of an opportunity to not take it up and we need more people to participate, that way we can show others," they said.

Those interested in participating in YALift! can find more information on the Metro United Way website here. Applications will be accepted through Feb. 21, 2022. Participants will be chosen at random and will also take part in providing data to a national study about the program's impact.

Between Louisville Metro Government, Metro United Way and the Mayors for Guaranteed Income, $600,000 has been donated toward the project.

Contact reporter Gabrielle Harmon at gharmon@whas11.com. Follow her on Twitter (@_GabbyHarmonTV) and Facebook.

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