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L.A. To Become Largest U.S. City To Offer Guaranteed Basic Income

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L.A. To Become Largest U.S. City To Offer Guaranteed Basic Income

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti is proposing a program that provides basic income to poor residents.

On Tuesday, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti will put forward a proposal to City Council, asking for $24 million in next year’s budget to direct $1,000 monthly payments to 2,000 low-income families. This would make L.A. the largest city in the country to trial this type of program. Additional funds from various council districts and other sources could take that number up to $35 million, according to reports.

Those eligible for the policy would be chosen from the city’s fifteen districts, with the number of candidates to be proportional to the share of individuals living below federal poverty levels. Those with minors under the age of 18 and proof that they have suffered financially as a result of the COVID-19 will be the primary target groups.

With L.A. being the epicenter of the poverty crisis, if successful, this could create a big shift nationally. At least one in five of the city’s roughly 4 million residents are struggling to put food on the table.

“How many decades are we going to keep fighting a war on poverty with the same old results,” Garcetti said in an interview. “This is one of the cheapest insertions of resources to permanently change people’s lives.”

The idea of universal basic income is by no means new, with various iterations being put forward across the world for centuries. It has even been floated by US presidents and policymakers. President Lyndon B. Johnson made “The War on Poverty” his top priority and President Richard Nixon was on the verge of making negative income tax a widespread policy. However, the pandemic has made the need to tackle the homelessness crisis ever more pressing.

Beyond exacerbating the need for changes, the mayor has noted how the pandemic in some ways shown how the model can work noting the stimulus checks as evidence to support the idea. “There’s no question the pandemic is proof that this works,” Garcetti said. “Small investments have big payoffs.”

Smaller models have been carried out in cities across the US, with San Francisco rolling out $1000 monthly payments to 130 artists in the coming months and even more local projects like The Compton Pledge already in motion.

Recipients of Garcetti’s Basic Income Guaranteed: L.A. Economic Assistance Pilot (Big: Leap) will be asked to participate in studies to measure the impact of these payments on their lives. This will hopefully create more incentive for more federal funding.

    Featured Image: Sharon McCutcheon via Unsplash

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