Need $1,000 a month? County officials can help

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Wave Staff and Wire Services

LOS ANGELES — The application period is underway for Los Angeles County’s guaranteed income program, which will provide 1,000 randomly selected residents with $1,000 a month for three years.

To qualify for the “Breathe: LA County’s Guaranteed Income Program,” people must be at least 18 years old, have a household income under $56,000 for a single person or $96,000 for a family of four and have experienced negative impacts due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Participants will receive the money through a debit card, and there are no strings attached or conditions to the income.

Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chair Holly Mitchell formally opened the application period March 31 at a news conference at Community Coalition headquarters.

“The financial uncertainty and varying depths of poverty that millions of our constituents experience day to day cannot be addressed with a one-size-fits-all approach,” Mitchell said. “Now is our opportunity to invest in support that directly reaches our residents.

“It’s time that we trust that our residents know how best to meet their needs when given the resources to do so. Across the country, guaranteed income has already proven to reduce poverty, improve the long-term well-being of families, and give residents living on the edge of a fiscal cliff the support to breathe a bit easier.”

Marshall Bell, who was waiting in line at Community Coalition to apply for the program, said the money will help him cover his bills.

“The pandemic hit me pretty hard, you know, and it would do some help for me,” Bell told KCAL9. “I am … low income and I don’t have nothing and I thank God if I can apply for something, it’s good for me.”

The county Board of Supervisors approved the motion, introduced by Mitchell and Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, to create the program on May 18, 2021. The motion also declared poverty and economic opportunity a public health matter.

“The course of this pandemic has revealed the large number of county residents who are living on the brink of financial crisis, with insufficient savings to weather a job loss, a medical emergency or a major car repair,” Kuehl said.

“This guaranteed income program will help give residents the breathing room they need to better weather those crises. There is ample evidence from guaranteed income projects around the country that financial support, coupled with the freedom to make their own decisions about how best to spend their money, offers families the flexibility they need to establish stability and invest in a more prosperous future for themselves.”

Los Angeles County’s Poverty Alleviation Initiative will oversee the program, and a research team from the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Guaranteed Income Research will randomly select qualified applicants. The team will also study long-term impacts the income has on residents’ economic wellbeing.

“There is so much we still do not know about the power of unconditional cash over a longer period of time. With a three-year pilot, it opens up the possibility for families to set larger goals than we have seen in other experiments and it also gives policymakers a chance to learn how unconditional cash functions alongside other programs over time,” said Dr. Amy Beth Castro of the University of Pennsylvania Center for Guaranteed Income Research.

The pilot program is based on a similar program in Stockton, California, that has been praised for its success. The city of Los Angeles introduced a guaranteed basic income program, called BIG:LEAP, last year.

“Given that we saw reductions in anxiety and depression after just 12 months in Stockton, we are eager to see how families leverage a much longer period of support,” Castro said.

Residents interested in applying can find more information at breathe.lacounty.gov, including a map to help determine whether they live in a qualifying community. Information is also available by calling (213) 342-1003.

The deadline for enrollment applications is April 13. Selection will not depend on the timing of entries.

 

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