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Pittsburgh City Council Has First Vote On Guaranteed Income, Bereavement Leave

Pittsburgh City Council took an initial step toward approving a guaranteed income pilot program Wednesday morning. The program would give 200 households $500 a month over the next two years. It would pay special attention to households headed by Black women.

Council also gave preliminary approval to grant at least three days of paid leave to employees of city government for bereavement due to pregnancy loss.

The guaranteed income program would take $2.5 million from the American Rescue Plan, a federal coronavirus relief fund, and hand it over to a nonprofit agency, which will distribute the money to qualifying homes. The program would prioritize Black women, but anyone who is low-income could qualify through a random selection process.

The effort is seen as a pilot program to test the impact of the money on low-income families. Lindsay Powell, assistant chief of staff for Mayor Bill Peduto, said the emphasis on Black women could also address issues brought up in a 2019 Gender Equity Commission report. That report documented gross disparities for Black women who live in Pittsburgh.

"The guaranteed basic income program would be explicitly to address the concerns raised in that report," she said. "As well as the issues that we know through their lived experience that we would be able to address through this program."

Still, Council President Theresa Kail-Smith said she had received numerous calls of concern about the policy.

"A lot of people are angry. They feel like we are identifying predominantly Black women who will benefit from it," Kail-Smith said. "And they feel like there's a lot of people who don't fit that category in terms of race, but that do fit the category in terms of struggling throughout the pandemic."

Kail-Smith and Councilor Deb Gross also raised concerns about giving federal funds to an outside entity. But Peduto's office has said such an approach is required by law, and council ultimately gave the legislation a tentative thumbs-up. Gross was the only no vote.

Later during the meeting, council also gave preliminary approval to legislation that would grant time off to city workers who have experienced pregnancy loss. It would protect workers who have experienced loss due to causes like miscarriage, in vitro failure, or termination. They would receive three paid days off. There was little debate on the bill, although during the meeting's public-comment period some speakers said that more days should be given.

Council is set to take a final vote for both bills on Tuesday.