(CNN) — Andrew Yang’s new nonprofit will spend more than $1 million helping working families impacted by the spread of the coronavirus in the New York area and across the country, the group announced on Friday.
Humanity Forward, the organization Yang founded after his 2020 presidential run to test his universal basic income theory, will begin sending 500 working poor households in the Bronx $1,000 a month before the end of March.
The organization is pledging to spend at least $500,000 on the project and is working with two organizations, Collective Education Fund and Neighborhood Trust Financial Partners, to target families who are struggling to put together an income as businesses send hourly workers home in the face of the coronavirus.
The group will also begin to raise money for their Humanity Forward Coronavirus Relief Fund, a tranche of money that hope to use to provide one-time basic income payment to individuals and families who need it. That includes those targeted by One Fair Wage, a New York-based nonprofit that advocates for tipped workers, many of whom are struggling as restaurants, bars and others establishments are closing. Humanity Forward plans to spend at least $500,000 on the effort and hopes, as they raise more, they will be able to spend more.
The paired projects represent the first major effort by Humanity Forward, an organization that, because of Yang’s presidential campaign, has a mailing list of over 900,000 people.
Yang, who is a CNN political commentator, founded the organization to test universal basic income, the concept of all Americans getting $1,000 a month from the federal government. Yang’s upstart presidential campaign was animated by the policy proposal, but as the coronavirus spread, the businessman decided it was better to use his money to directly help those struggling to make ends meet during the crisis.
“It seemed much more important to put money into people’s hands because people are struggling and wondering how they are going to be able to pay their bills,” Yang told CNN in an interview. “So rather than doing basic income trial, we deiced to get money into people’s hands immediately and it seemed like the most effective way to do it.”
Yang was dour about how the next few months will impact working Americans, especially because America “had pervasive financial insecurity before the crisis.”
“We are only in week one of this economic shutdown, by the time you get to week four or five, many people will be in desperate circumstance and that is what we need to prevent as soon as possible,” Yang said.
Yang will use Neighborhood Trust as a go-between to locate the families in need. The businessman said he approached Citibank and JP Morgan to find families in need, but the large banks cited regularity issues and privacy, raising larger questions about the difficulties of getting money directly into American hands.
Coronavirus has altered all of American life. Thousands have been infected by the virus and nearly 200 people have died, leading many American cities to force bars, restaurants and certain stores to close. That has put workers who make an hourly wage in a perilous position.
New York has been one of the American epicenters. The state has more than 5,000 confirmed coronavirus cases, with the virus killing 32 people.
Yang said that focusing their efforts on New York made sense because the city has been “one of the hardest hit areas by the coronavirus and New York is full of people who are service workers that rely upon heading to a bar or restaurant or hair salon in order to earn their living.”
The concept of giving $1,000 to every American adult got a boost in response to the coronavirus, with Republican Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah proposing giving all American adults $1,000 in response.
“Every American adult should immediately receive $1,000 to help ensure families and workers can meet their short-term obligations and increase spending in the economy,” a plan from Romney’s Senate office said.
Yang said it was “exciting and invigorating that our legislators realized that putting cash into people’s hands was the only way to get us through this crisis,” adding that he was heartened by the fact that Romney, the former Republican presidential nominee, was the one to lean towards direct payments.