LA could become largest US city with a guaranteed income program

After a successful initial trial across the state in Stockton, Los Angeles is set to become the largest US city with a guaranteed income program for poor residents. Mayor Eric Garcetti is seeking approval from the City Council this week to set aside $24 million from next year’s budget to implement $1,000 monthly payments to 2,000 low-income families in the city. 

Candidates for the program would be chosen from all 15 city districts based on the proportion of residents living below the poverty line. The program will target families with at least one minor and aim to address financial struggles spurred by the pandemic. 

One in five Los Angeles residents is defined as at or below the poverty line. “How many decades are we going to keep fighting a war on poverty with the same old results,” Garcetti said. “This is one of the cheapest insertions of resources to permanently change people’s lives.”

If approved, this program will build upon one instituted during the pandemic in which the city allocated $36.8 million to 104,200 residents on prepaid “Angeleno Cards.”

Most guaranteed income programs are funded by private philanthropic organizations, so a city-funded income program in the country’s second-largest city would be a big step forward for the concept. Garcetti is co-chair of Mayors for a Guaranteed Income, a group that advocates for guaranteed income or universal basic income (UBI) as an effective and lasting solution to breaking the poverty cycle. 

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