By CBSNewYork Team

NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — New Jersey’s largest city is fighting poverty with cash.

A newly launched pilot program in Newark is handing out thousands of dollars to low-income residents for them to spend as they see fit, CBS2’s Christina Fan reported Monday.

In a city where more than a quarter of the population lives in poverty, there’s a bold new idea to tackle economic insecurity.

The city is offering $500 guaranteed income a month. No restrictions. No strings attached.

“When we show the world that we give our residents freedom of choice and recognize and affirm their inherent dignity, they will make decisions that will help us build a stronger and more resilient city,” Mayor Ras Baraka said.

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The two-year pilot program called the Newark Movement for Economic Equity pays participants facing housing insecurity $6,000 a year — some on a bi-weekly basis, others in lump sums.

Thirty residents are currently enrolled, including 19-year-old junior college student Duwan Priester.

“It means so much because a lot of opportunities like this isn’t given to people like me. For me, it’s like a load off,” Priester said.

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Newark joins a network of more than 20 cities around the country that have already implemented variations of this pilot. Advocates say the results speak for themselves.

“In California, they witnessed that many of the residents receiving guaranteed income were more likely to secure full-time jobs than people who weren’t receiving guaranteed income,” program manager Hawwa Muhammad said.

The city hopes to expand the program, funded through private donations, to 400 participants by this fall. To qualify, residents must live in Newark, be 18 years or older, and possess income levels at below 200% of the federal poverty threshold.

“We believe by doing a pilot we can get rid of all of the negative ideas that come along with this, the idea that people will quit their jobs, the idea that people will waste their money,” Baraka said.

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Supporters hope success in the state’s largest city will push for a guaranteed income program at the federal level.

The city has raised more than $2 million so far for the pilot program, but still needs about $3.6 million in funds.

Applications for the 400 new participants will open in July. You can find more information by clicking here.

CBS2’s Christina Fan contributed to this report

CBSNewYork Team