L.A.’s guaranteed income program set to take applications


The application window for a new $1,000-a-month cash assistance program in Los Angeles run by City Hall kicks off Wednesday, making L.A. the biggest city in the nation to launch such an initiative.

The city’s guaranteed basic income program will give 3,200 Los Angeles households the monthly stipend for a year. The 10-day application period opens Wednesday, when officials say they will release details about how to apply. Recipients will be announced in early January.

Recipients will be randomly selected by the city’s research partner, the Center for Guaranteed Income Research, city officials said.

To qualify, applicants must live within the city of L.A., have an income at or below the federal poverty level, have at least one dependent child or be pregnant, be at least 18 years of age or older and have experienced financial and/or medical hardships related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Unlike other cash assistance programs, there are no rules about how the money can be spent.

Similar programs have already launched in Stockton; Jackson, Miss.; St. Paul, Minn.; Richmond, Va.; Pittsburgh and Oakland. The state of California and the county are also moving forward with programs.

In Compton, 800 residents are receiving cash assistance through the Compton Pledge. That program was sponsored by the Fund for Guaranteed Income, a charity headed by Nika Soon-Shiong, daughter of Los Angeles Times owner Patrick Soon-Shiong and a co-director of the Compton Pledge.

L.A.’s $38-million program is being paid for with taxpayer funds, including about $11 million that was was cut from the Los Angeles Police Department budget after last year’s protests over the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer.

Several L.A. City Council members and Mayor Eric Garcetti proposed different cash assistance programs this year. The one launching Wednesday, called BIG: LEAP, which is short for Basic Income Guaranteed: L.A. Economic Assistance Pilot, is a combination of all the initiatives.

The City Council voted Tuesday to transfer the funds for the program. South L.A. Councilman Curren Price said at the council meeting his office would be opening numerous application centers around his district.

More money will flow to council districts with higher degrees of poverty. For instance, in Price’s district, 781 households will receive assistance, while in Council District 11, which includes many West L.A. neighborhoods, 73 households will get the cash stipends.

Garcetti originally said his proposed program wouldn’t use taxpayer money, but would be paid for with federal COVID-19 relief dollars. However, city budget analysts subsequently determined that federal dollars can’t be used.

Garcetti, in an interview, said he hopes that the city’s program spurs the federal government to launch a similar initiative. “Investing to move people out of poverty is a lot cheaper than keeping them poor for their entire lives,” Garcetti said.

Groups such as the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assn. oppose such cash assistance programs unless they are paid for with private dollars.

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