Los Angeles Democratic Mayor To Propose Guaranteed Basic Income Pilot In ‘Most Progressive Budget’ He’s Overseen

Program will reportedly be open to unlawfully present immigrants.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti speaks at a Los Angeles County Health Department press conference on the novel coronavirus, (COVID-19)on March 4, 2020 in Los Angeles, California.
ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images

Los Angeles Democratic Mayor Eric Garcetti will reportedly introduce a guaranteed basic income pilot program during his State of the City speech on Monday evening.

LAist reports, under the proposal, “2,000 Angeleno families at or below the federal poverty line would receive $1,000 a month for one year, no strings attached.” According to the outlet, “the $24 million program would be the largest experiment of its kind in the United States” as part of Garcetti’s “Equity and Justice Budget.”

“We have to end America’s addiction to poverty,” Garcetti told LAist. “For families who can’t think past the next bill, the next shift or the next health problem that they have, we can give them the space to not only dream of a better life, but to actualize it.”

The program is called “BIG: LEAP,” an acronym for Basic Income Guaranteed: L.A. Economic Assistance Pilot.

Eligibility for assistance has not yet been determined. LAist reported the selection criteria “will likely include supporting a child under the age of 18 and a demonstrated medical or financial hardship connected to COVID-19,” citing information provided by Garcetti’s office. The program would be open to unlawfully present immigrants, the report says. The funds will be disbursed among the city’s 15 council districts depending on each area’s poverty rate.

The idea of a universal basic income was popularized by former 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang. His platform included implementing a “freedom dividend” of $1000 each month for every U.S. citizen over the age of 18. Yang’s campaign website said the money “would enable all Americans to pay their bills, educate themselves, start businesses, be more creative, stay healthy, relocate for work, spend time with their children, take care of loved ones, and have a real stake in the future.”

The city of Stockton, California, was the first U.S. city to launch a mayor-led universal basic income pilot program in February 2019. Funded by donors, it gave 125 randomly selected residents $500 per month for two years. Critics of the program had said the financial support would become a disincentive to seek and retain employment. Former Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs, who is reportedly working with Garcetti on the L.A. test run, said recipients “did not stop working” and “were more likely to find full-time employment.” Last month, several legacy media outlets amplified a year-long study “conducted by a team of independent researchers” that backed up those claims.

The City of Compton, California, established a similar experimental program in January. Called the Compton Pledge, the pilot is funded by more than $8 million in private donations, offering as much as $1,800 every three months for two years. It reportedly reached full enrollment last month, with 800 households representing 1,700 participants, including families and dependents. The average payout is $300-$600 a month, scaled to household size. According to LAist, recipients “aren’t required to produce a social security or taxpayer I.D. number, making the process available to immigrants without documentation.”

The City of L.A. was recently allotted $1.3 billion from the federal government after the passage of President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan. Garcetti said he planned to use the funds to “transform systems.” Garcetti was a co-chair of Biden’s presidential campaign.

“This is not small ball,” Garcetti said. “It isn’t just the biggest budget I’ve ever overseen – it’s the most progressive, and I would argue the most progressive in the country.”

Related: America’s First ‘Guaranteed Basic Income’ Program Offers People $500 A Month, Gets Off To Rocky Start

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