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Providence’s guaranteed income pilot program has ended

Providence’s guaranteed income pilot program created by former mayor Jorge Elorza ended quietly on April 15, and Mayor Brett Smiley’s administration did not include funding to extend the program and make it permanent in his budget proposal this week.

The program, which started in November 2021, provided $500 a month with no strings attached to 110 individuals in Providence with a median household income of $10,266 per year. It was initially funded through private donations, and Elorza extended the program with an additional $500,000 in American Rescue Plan funding.

The city has been working with the Center for Guaranteed Income Research at the University of Pennsylvania, and a spokeswoman for Smiley said a full analysis of the program is still being prepared.


But researchers have already released a breakdown of how recipients spent their money. It’s worth noting that this is a review of the bank accounts of the recipients, so the spending includes both the $500 from the guaranteed income and their regular income.

Spoiler: It looks a lot like how most of us spend our money.

  • Retail sales and services: 43.33 percent
  • Food and groceries: 25.33 percent
  • Financial transactions: 9.85 percent
  • Transport-related expenses: 7.47 percent
  • Housing and utilities: 7.1 percent
  • Travel/Leisure/entertainment: 2.68 percent
  • Health care/medical expenses: 2.08 percent
  • Miscellaneous: 1.11 percent
  • Educational expenses: 1.06 percent

It will be interesting to read the full report from the Center for Guaranteed Income Research. We know that the average recipient was 42 years old and 76 percent of them were women. We also know that 61 percent of recipients had children in their household.

On the campaign trail, Smiley frequently said he supports the idea of guaranteed income, but that the program should be funded privately.

This story first appeared in Rhode Map, our free newsletter about Rhode Island that also contains information about local events, links to interesting stories, and more. If you’d like to receive it via e-mail Monday through Friday, you can sign up here.

Dan McGowan can be reached at Follow him @danmcgowan.