EDITOR'S NOTE: Multimedia journalist Sarah Pilla spoke to Janelle Halbrook, a homeless mother of a 2-month-old, who's hoping to be selected for LA's BIG:LEAP program. If you would like to help, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
LOS ANGELES — The city of Los Angeles is poised to launch the nation’s largest guaranteed basic income program.
Starting Friday, Angelenos will be able to apply to the BIG:LEAP, which will provide $1,000 monthly checks to 3,203 LA households for a year.
“We’re taking a big leap forward in our generational fight to end poverty,” LA Mayor Eric Garcetti said Wednesday at an event announcing the opening of the application period for the new program. “We’re going to achieve greater racial equity. We’re going to see better health outcomes, better educational outcomes and show that targeted investments and trusting people who live in poverty to find their own routes out is a much cheaper way in the long term than keeping a nation full of poor people.”
Poverty affects 20% of LA residents, the majority of whom are people of color, according to LA City Council President Nury Martinez. One-third of working adults in LA are not able to support their families with full-time work alone, and one-third of Angelenos currently affected by poverty are children, she said.
Applications for the BIG:LEAP will be accepted from Oct. 29 through Nov. 7 at bigleap.lacity.org. The $38 million program is expected to help between 10,000 and 12,000 Angelenos. Each of the households receiving a basic income will have at least one child.
Administered by the city’s new Community Investment for Families Department, the one-year pilot will also be the subject of a Center for Guaranteed Income Research study conducted by the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Southern California.
The study will look at guaranteed basic income’s impact on mental health, food security, housing security, employment, houselessness, parenting and family dynamics for those who receive it compared with a control group that does not. Garcetti said the research would also allow the city to see guaranteed basic income’s effects by age, ethnicity, neighborhood and family type.
The mayor cited research from the country’s first guaranteed basic income pilot in Stockton, Calif., which found that people who received a monthly income felt less exhausted and less anxious than those in a control group. They spent more time with their children and found full-time employment at twice the rate of non-recipients.
“The pandemic has only exacerbated the racial wealth gap and laid bare a mountain of inequities that impact us all,” City Councilmember Curren Price said Wednesday.
Representing Council District 9, which includes downtown LA, Price spearheaded the city's basic income program and is setting up six application hubs in his district to help residents apply.
More than 12% of the program’s overall funding will benefit residents of Council District 9 — the most of any district in the city. Council District 8, which includes Crenshaw, Leimert Park, Jefferson Park, West Adams and other communities in South LA, will receive 10%.
The idea of government providing adult citizens with a set amount of money on a regular basis, or a basic income, first came to national prominence during the 2020 presidential election, when candidate Andrew Yang said he supported the idea. Since then, basic income has been gaining steady traction with half a dozen pilot projects in Southern California cities alone.
The launch of LA’s guaranteed basic income pilot is happening as several other cities launch similar programs, including Long Beach and Compton in Southern California — and Chicago, which is voting today on a program that would provide $500 monthly payments to 5,000 low-income households as part of a one-year pilot program funded through the federal American Rescue Plan.
Earlier this year, California Gov. Gavin Newsom pledged $35 million to basic income pilots in the state budget. The Biden administration also expanded the child tax credit, providing up to $300 per month per qualifying child for millions of eligible families through December.
In September, the U.S. Census Bureau’s Supplemental Poverty Measure reported that the $400 billion the federal government provided in COVID-inspired stimulus payments nationally helped lift 11.7 million people out of poverty in 2020.