LOS ANGELES — When Amelia Avila’s niece urged her to apply for Los Angeles’ guaranteed income pilot program known as BIG:LEAP, Avila was hesitant.
“There’s so many scams that you don’t even know where you’re putting your name,” she said.
What You Need To Know
- Amelia Avila applied for Los Angeles’ guaranteed income pilot program known as BIG:LEAP
- As a single mom, Avila was struggling to make ends meet, but says she had never relied on any kind of public assistance
- Back in August, Avila says she got a job as a preschool teacher so she no longer relied on the $1,000 dollars a month for necessities
- She received her last payment in Dec. 2022
But she applied. It was 2021 and the future of her teaching job was uncertain.
“My job was closing and opening because a lot of our kids got COVID and then we would close for two weeks,” Avila said.
She says she left her job because everyone was getting COVID, and she was scared to go back to work. Then she got the phone call.
“Every 25th, you’re going to get $1,000 and I was like ‘No way!’” she said.
As a single mom, Avila was struggling to make ends meet, but says she had never relied on any kind of public assistance.
“We’re so used to just saying ‘I got it. I got it by myself. I can do it.’ Sometimes you can’t, and it’s okay not to be able to do it!” she said.
“Those thousand dollars, they meant a lot to me. They meant my gas. They meant that I was going to be able to pay my rent, and they meant I was going to be able to pay my bills,” Avila said.
She grew up in the Cypress Park neighborhood near downtown LA and lives across the street from the park with her daughter and niece. They say they often hang out there. In fact, her niece, Amanda, painted several murals surrounding the park.
“There are a lot of people that do want to work and do want to do good, but sometimes you just don’t have the resources or even the education or even the confidence,” Avila said.
“They might have unexpected circumstances in life. They might have been born into a more tough socioeconomic environment, and there are intersecting issues with racism as well,” said Aaron Strauss, who helped manage the BIG:LEAP program, which provided $1,000 a month without any restrictions to around 3,200 participants.
“We saw folks start small businesses. We saw folks pay their own tuitions in order to return to school and further their educations and therefore careers,” Strauss said.
Back in August, Avila says she got a job as a preschool teacher so she no longer relied on the $1,000 dollars a month for necessities. She received her last payment in Dec. 2022.
“I was able to put away money that I probably wouldn’t have been if I didn’t get that money,” she said.
The program provided an extra safety net for some of the most vulnerable in LA while giving them a little financial freedom to forge their own path.
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