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Rockland councilor calls for basic income pilot program

Davis proposes senior citizen tax deferral
By Stephen Betts | Aug 02, 2020

Rockland — A Rockland City Councilor is floating proposals to provide financial relief to tax-strapped residents.

Councilor Nate Davis has authored two ordinance amendments. A preliminary vote is scheduled for Aug. 10.

One is a proposed basic income program and the other is a plan to defer property taxes on senior citizens until the property changes ownership or they no longer live at the property.

"The City of Rockland basic income program is intended to contribute to the dignity and health of all residents of the City of Rockland via direct financial assistance for those in need," the preamble of the ordinance states.

The plan calls for the city to provide up to $100 per month for as many as 100 Rockland residents who seek assistance. The aid would be on a first-come, first-served basis. If the 100 is reached and there are multiple requests for aid at the same time, a random drawing would be held to determine who gets the aid.

The councilor pointed out that a basic income was most recently and prominently supported by former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang.

The cost of the program in a year would be $120,000 plus incidental costs such as postage and printing of postcards that would be used to participate in the program. There would also be staff time involved in overseeing the program.

The City Council approved May 27 a $200,000 loan program for businesses. The original business loan proposal was to take $100,000 out of the downtown tax increment financing account for loans of up to $5,000 for downtown businesses.

At the May 27 meeting, councilors agreed to take another $100,000 out of the the general city surplus to offer the same loans to businesses elsewhere in Rockland.

"The idea of giving handouts to businesses during a time of great need attracted some criticism from people who believed we should be doing more to help people meet their basic needs. The basic income program is an attempt to do that. Why would we give $200K to distressed businesses without batting an eye, but hesitate to give a similar amount to distressed individuals?" Davis said.

Davis said the money for the basic income program could come this year from the general fund surplus.

He also said the basic income program could potentially be paid for with one large development project.

Councilor Ed Glaser said he supports the discussion of social programs but he was not sure if this plan was the one needed. He pointed out, however, that $100 a month would be a lot for someone who might be sleeping on somebody's couch. He said low income people spend the money they receive and that would be an economic boost to the community.

The tax deferral for senior citizens is based on a state law which for people 70 years or older whose income is not more than three times the federal poverty level. That would be about a cap of about $38,000 in annual income to qualify for the deferral.

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Comments (5)
Posted by: Valerie Wass | Aug 03, 2020 11:30

I can see this idea going to people who do not need the money.  Doesn't sound sound to me.

Posted by: Francis Mazzeo, Jr. | Aug 02, 2020 14:06

It would be nice to know while on a fixed income because of age that I will not be taxed out of house and home. Anybody that grew up here after the big one (WW 11) pretty well knows that welfare has raised many. Not everybody wants to sit back and receive a check, some just don't know any different.

Posted by: George Terrien | Aug 02, 2020 09:49

Councilor Davis presents strong arguments to support his courageous proposal.  I support them enthusiastically, and urge all members of the Council to join him.  We need to express compassion to those who acutely suffer the costs of the epidemic (and of aging during regressive increases in property taxes) by taking steps, however costly, to alleviate their more painful financial burdens, especially in this time under the failure of our federal leadership.

Posted by: Richard McKusic, Sr. | Aug 02, 2020 07:14

Please, pass a tax deferral program, Have lived in my home for over fifty years and hate to think of being driven from it.  Please, give this serious consideration. :(

Posted by: ananur forma | Aug 02, 2020 06:51

giving money to employers rather than so much money to out of work individuals might help give incentives to go back to work... Would have to make sure employers set aside this money only for hiring and paying workers. I understand there are people who want to sit back and receive checks rather than go to work, this does not help the situation. We all need to work, even those on "welfare." My thoughts are not well thought out  - needs other minds to help figure this out.

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