GOFFSTOWN – Getting an extra thousand dollars a month will change anyone’s life, although some of the changes in the Fassi household have been unexpected.
In January, Andrew Yang selected the Fassi family as a test case for his universal basic income policy platform, also known as UBI. In the system, which Yang has compared to a state-funded investment fund given to Alaska residents, every adult American would receive $1,000 a month to do with as they choose.
Then 20-year-old Janelle Fassi submitted her father Charles as a candidate for the program, with Yang meeting the family and paying the amount each month from his personal funds.
So far, the money received by his family has been used toward Janelle’s tuition at Saint Anselm College, which the family would have paid for even without the money. However, having the earmarked tuition money free has allowed the family to address other needs, such as car repairs.
The program will end in December, but Charles says the key change to his family’s life has come from the notoriety, not the money.
In addition to local coverage, Charles has seen a cascade of national media interest as well, ranging from being part of a joke on Comedy Central’s Jim Jefferies Show to an interview on CNN with Anna Cabrera earlier this month.
He’s also had to respond to a multitude of people on social media and elsewhere on the internet looking to hear more of his story.
Charles sees the money not just as a source of free income, but a responsibility he must uphold.
“We’ve been busy, I feel like I’ve been earning the money,” he says. “It’s weird, I’m like ‘you want to give me a thousand dollars a month and I don’t have to do anything? That’s fine.’ But then it’s like, people want to ask me questions and do interviews, and what am I supposed to say? No?”
Still, Charles has enjoyed the attention somewhat, stemming from the political opinions that led him to become a volunteer for Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign in 2016.
At this point, Charles says he will be voting for Yang in the New Hampshire Primary, although he says that is due more to Yang’s policies and personalities than the money, with Yang repeatedly telling him that he was not trying to buy his vote and the money would continue regardless of who he supported.
And despite his support of Yang, he has also lent out a spare bedroom in his home to volunteers for Kamala Harris, Beto O’Rourke and Elizabeth Warren.
Yang announced earlier this month that several more people will be selected to receive dividends as living experiments for the concept. Charles says that he won’t be applying for a second run through the program, citing his belief that there are others who need it more, although he expects that life will change once the money stops coming in.
Still, he is grateful for the impact the money has had on his life and believes it should eventually become a reality for all Americans.
In the future, he hopes to start his own business and if he was getting $1,000 a month along with Janelle and his wife Jodie, that would be enough in the short-term to keep the business afloat during its start-up phase. He also believes it could be even more crucial to many Americans forced into tough decisions.
“I know (Yang) is running on UBI, which is kind of a gimmicky thing, but when you think about the way society’s going, it’s not,” he said. “If you can define what a universal basic income is and give everybody the ability to buy food, keep a roof over your head, put clothes on your back. That is what society can at least give you and then anything over and above, you have to work for.”