Guaranteed income pilot programs have recently gained momentum nationwide. California alone is home to dozens of pilot programs, with many others mayors interested in launching programs in their respective cities. While most pilots disburse unconditional cash payments, they each have a unique approach to how the money is distributed, the population their program targets, and the data being collected to measure success.
SCG has compiled a short list of some of the pilot programs in Southern California. As philanthropy continues to fund guaranteed income pilots and support the narrative work needed for programs to succeed, it will be critical to monitor the progress and learnings from each pilot in our region.
*Please note this is not an exhaustive list of programs in Southern California, and we will be updating it periodically.
County of Los Angeles
Guaranteed Income Program: BREATHE
BREATHE is a guaranteed income project that will provide 1,000 eligible Los Angeles County residents with $1,000 per month for three years. Among other requirements, eligible applicants must be at least 18 years old and have a household income under $56,000 for a single person, or $96,000 for a family of four. Applicants also must have been negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. 1,000 participants will be randomly selected from the pool of eligible applicants by the research team, the University of Pennsylvania, Center for Guaranteed Income Research, much like a blind drawing. After participants are selected, another 2,000 applicants will be randomly chosen to participate in the research study only, as part of the “control group.” Control group participants will not receive the monthly payment. They will complete periodic surveys and interviews about their well-being so that information can be compared to the “treatment group” and help determine whether or not the program was effective. Control group participants will receive $30 gift cards for each survey completed (this does not include the application and initial survey).
Ongoing; The University of Pennsylvania has randomly selected applicants for Breathe and Los Angeles County is in the process of contacting them.
Basic Income Guaranteed: Los Angeles Economic Assistance Pilot (BIG:LEAP)
Earlier this year, the City of Los Angeles launched the Basic Income Guaranteed: Los Angeles Economic Assistance Pilot (BIG:LEAP), the country’s largest guaranteed income pilot program. BIG:LEAP will provide approximately 3,200 individuals with monthly $1,000 unconditional cash payments over 12 months. To participate in the pilot, applicants had to meet all the eligibility criteria, which include: being a resident of the City of Los Angeles, being 18 or older, being pregnant, or being a parent to a child under 18 years old (24 years old if they are students), having an income level below the Federal Poverty Line, and having experienced hardship because of the pandemic. BIG:LEAP is utilizing funds from the American Rescue Plan Act to make the payments to participants, the first of which were disbursed in January 2022. The City of Los Angeles will work with the Center of Guaranteed Income Research at the University of Pennsylvania to collect data for the course of the pilot and evaluate its effectiveness in addressing poverty, changing policies, and expanding the social safety net.
On April 14, 2021, Compton Pledge and Former Compton Mayor Aja Brown enrolled 800 families in the city’s guaranteed income pilot program, which will distribute continuous cash payments (ranging from $300 to $600) to the city’s low-income residents for two years. Upon enrollment, Compton Pledge disbursed $1 million to support over 1770 recipients with the plan to spend $9.1 million in payments. Developed and administered by the Fund for Guaranteed Income (F4GI) and the Compton Community Development Corporation (CCDC), Compton Pledge is the largest city-based GI pilot in U.S. history. The pilot is funded by philanthropic donors and recently received a $200,000 grant from Amazon Foundation and Amazon Studios Foundation.
The City of Long Beach has begun accepting applications for the Long Beach Guaranteed Income Pilot program and expects to start disbursing payments this summer. The Long Beach Guaranteed Income Pilot Program will provide between 250-500 single-parent households living at or below the poverty line in Long Beach with monthly $500 payments for one year. The program targets families in the 90813 zip code, which contains the highest concentration of families living in poverty within the city and that were disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Alongside the stipends, families will also receive “free child care, transportation support, workforce training and support for digital inclusion like cell phones and internet connection.” The $1.6 million program is funded through the Long Beach Recovery Act. The program also received a donation from Jack Dorsey in 2020 to help select cities create these pilot programs.
San Diego for Every Child Guaranteed Income Project
As of March 2022, San Diego for Every Child selected 150 families of color with at least one child under the age of 12 living in San Diego and National City to participate in their Guaranteed Income Program. Participants will receive a monthly $500 “no string attached” payment for at least 24 months and will also have the option to participate in coaching and financial literacy programs. The pilot targeted families living in San Diego and National City, specifically zip codes with high unemployment rates, children experiencing poverty, COVID-19 cases, food insecurity, and many other factors. The project is overseen by San Diego for Every Child, a county-wide initiative of individuals and organizations committed to cutting the experience of child poverty across San Diego County in half by 2030, and the Jewish Family Service of San Diego, which operates as the coordinating agency. The State of California is directing $1.4 million of its annual budget to San Diego for Every Child to support San Diego’s first Guaranteed Income Project. The pilot will acquire the rest of the funding through fundraising and private donations.
The West Hollywood Pilot for Guaranteed Income (WHPGI) will begin distributing payments in September 2022. WHPGI will provide monthly $1,000 unconditional payments over 18 months to 25 randomly selected low-income West Hollywood residents over 50 years of age. The City of West Hollywood focuses on low-income older adults because of the challenges facing older adults as outlined in California’s Master Plan for Aging. The city’s local data has found that residents aged 55 and older only make up 23% of the city’s population but 44% of the total residents living in poverty. In addition to the cash payments, participants will receive a benefits counseling session from APLA Health as part of the program onboarding process. WHPGI is the first guaranteed income pilot for older adults. The city hopes it will test GI efforts as a strategy to prevent homelessness, support community members age in place, and reduce poverty for older adults.