How a guaranteed income pilot program is helping some in Gary, Indiana

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Zachary Green:

Once a thriving steel town, Gary is now one of the poorest in Indiana. Its abandoned homes and boarded up shops speak to its declining population—which fell 14-percent in the last decade alone.

That’s mainly attributed to the lack of steel jobs.

The Gary works steel mill—owned by the U.S. steel corporation—is still the largest employer in Gary, Indiana. At its peak in the mid-70s, it employed more than 30,000 people. But as the steel industry declined and more jobs became automated, that number dropped precipitously. Today, the company employs about 5,000 people in the area.

Gary now has the highest unemployment rate in the state.

And its median household income—just over $31,000 a year—is also one of the lowest. Nearly one in three people here live in poverty—including about half of all children.

It’s challenges like these that inspired Gary’s mayor, Jerome Prince, to join Mayors for a Guaranteed Income, a network of 63 city leaders who have endorsed the idea as a tool to address poverty.

The organization—which last year received $18 million in funding from twitter CEO Jack Dorsey—provided $500,000, which partially funded Gary’s pilot.