EL MONTE, Calif. — Single mothers who live in El Monte could get $500 a month as part of a new guaranteed basic income program in the City of El Monte. To qualify, women must be single heads of household, have children between the ages of 0 and 17 years old living with them, have a verified income at the federal poverty line or below and be able to show their finances were affected by COVID-19.

Applications for the one-year pilot opened Monday and will run through April 15. Eligible mothers can apply online, by mail or in person at the City of El Monte’s city hall. Under the new program, 125 participants will be randomly selected to receive the $500 payments for a year. Those who are selected to participate will be notified by April 26 and will begin receiving the money as early as May 1, according to El Monte senior project manager Michelle Solorzano.

The El Monte City Council approved the guaranteed basic income pilot program a year ago. It has partnered with the nonprofit research organization RAND Corporation to study the effects of a monthly cash infusion on its 125 participants, as well as 125 individuals who will not receive the payments but will get a gift card to a local grocery store for participating. 

Located in the San Gabriel Valley east of Los Angeles, El Monte has a population of 109,000, but Solorzano said the community’s single female heads of household are likely undercounted.

El Monte’s program is patterned after 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 idea of the government providing adult citizens with a set amount of money regularly, 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, including Long Beach, Compton and Los Angeles. 

In 2021, LA launched the largest such program in the nation. The $38 million BIG:LEAP provided $1,000 monthly checks to 3,203 households, with at least one child for a year. That same year, California Gov. Gavin Newsom pledged $35 million to basic income pilots in the state budget. 

The El Monte guaranteed basic income pilot program is funded through the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan President Joe Biden signed into law in 2021 to quicken the country’s economic recovery from the COVID pandemic. According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Supplemental Poverty Measure, the $400 billion the federal government provided in COVID-inspired stimulus payments nationally helped lift 11.7 million people out of poverty in 2020.