Minnesota Democrats are pushing forward with a $500 statewide guaranteed basic income (UBI) plan that critics have argued would give free money to undocumented migrants.

The new statewide legislation, known as HF 2666 and introduced on March 8, would provide $500 monthly payments for 18 to 24 months “to eligible recipients in order to disrupt poverty, build wealth, advance equity, and support a recipient’s basic needs.”

Those eligible must be at or below 300 percent of the federal poverty level. The bill, approved March 12 by the House Children and Families Finance and Policy Committee, would be paid for with a one-time $100 million appropriation from the state general fund in fiscal year 2025.

The state has passed such legislation previously but on a relatively smaller scale. The city of St. Paul tested UBI as part of a pilot program that lasted more than one year and provided 150 residents $500 a month. Minneapolis is currently conducting its own pilot scheme.

Minnesota Legislature
A general view inside the Minnesota House chambers during a session at the State Capitol Building in Saint Paul, Minnesota, on April 19, 2023. A Minnesota Democrat has led a proposal for statewide basic income,…


STEPHEN MATUREN/AFP via Getty Images

“I do think that it’s important that we extend this…to individuals who may not have documentation,” Representative Athena Hollins (DFL), who authored the legislation, said during a legislative hearing on March 12.

Hollins referred to the St. Paul pilot program and how residents were given monthly payments, some of whom left the city, moved to the suburbs, and remained a part of that program upon exit.

Saint Paul’s People’s Prosperity Guaranteed Income Pilot was conducted between October 2020 and April 2022, providing 150 families with $500 per month in guaranteed “no-strings-attached” income for a period of 18 months.

A study by the Center for Guaranteed Income Research (CGIR) at the University of Pennsylvania found that the unconditional monies were correlated to improved financial health, sense of self, and economic mobility.

Minneapolis’ pilot program began in June 2022 and guaranteed basic income for 200 households who receive payment once a month for a two-year period that ends this June and can be spent however families choose.

“Those are community members, people who are participating in our communities regardless of their legal status and what their families look like… We want to gather data on how this works, and I think part of that is gathering data from people who maybe don’t speak English as a first language; maybe have different experiences, different education levels,” Hollins said.

Critics such as Republican State Representative Walter Hudson said it remains unclear whether restrictions would clarify how nonprofits could spend the money, or who would receive it due to the bill prohibiting possible benefactors from providing proof of income, residency, citizenship or other identifying information.

“This program very explicitly would provide support to illegal immigrants or persons claiming to be someone other than they actually are,” Hudson said. “We’re not even going to question that, there’s not going to be any documentation whatsoever.”

Even those who are recent immigrants or migrant workers who are part of the community should be included, Hollins argued.

“There are communities that are relying on these people to provide services within those communities,” she said. “For us to turn a blind eye to that and say it doesn’t apply is just not realistic, especially when we’re trying to curb things like crime, poverty, people relying on less-than-ideal ways of obtaining money. We want to make sure we’re including everybody in that count so we’re being as holistic as possible.”

Hollins was supported by her DFL colleague, Representative Carlie Kotyza-Witthuhn, who said that people from different backgrounds may spend the dollars in distinct ways.

“How do we determine what $500 people spent on drugs?” Kotyza-Witthuhn said. “How do we determine what $500 people spent on a couch? How do we determine what $500 of the money they have is spent on food or childcare?

“We earn $5.8 billion dollars off the backs of undocumented immigrants in the state of Minnesota. They are paying taxes and we should be supporting them as a member of our community.”

Newsweek reached out via email to all the lawmakers mentioned in this story.