L.A. to give $1,000 monthly payments to thousands in guaranteed income program; applications open Friday

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Starting Friday, Los Angeles residents will be able to apply for a chance to receive $1,000 monthly payments as part of a 12-month pilot guaranteed income program.

The program, dubbed BIG:LEAP, will provide more than 3,200 people with the unconditional direct cash payments for one year.

Officials said there will be no restrictions on how the money can be spent.

In a news conference announcing the program Wednesday, Mayor Eric Garcetti called it the “the largest guaranteed basic income program anywhere in the United States of America.”

The program will begin accepting applications Friday, before the window closes on Nov. 7. Those interested will be able to apply online on bigleap.lacity.org.

Recipients will be randomly selected from applicants aged 18 and older who meet eligibility requirements, including being an L.A. City resident, having at least one dependent child or are pregnant, having an income level that falls at or below the Federal Poverty Level and having experienced economic and/or medical hardship related to COVID-19.

Others who will not receive monthly cash deposits will also be randomly selected to participate as a control group in the research part of the program.

This is meant to help the city see the changes each group had depending on their access to the monthly cash deposit.

In his budget for the 2021-2022 fiscal year, Garcetti proposed a $24-million guaranteed basic income project, “no questions asked.” After L.A. City Council members made additional investments, it brought the amount to $38 million for more than 3,200 families.

The City Council voted Tuesday to transfer the funds to the guaranteed income pilot program. 

The program is being paid for with taxpayer funds, including approximately $11 million that was taken from the Los Angeles Police Department’s budget after last year’s racial justice protests, the Los Angeles Times reported.

“It is unacceptable that one-third of working adults in Los Angeles are unable to support their families with full-time work alone,” L.A. City Council President Nury Martinez said in a statement. “The City’s BIG:LEAP program will be a lifeline to families who wouldn’t be able to afford a $500 emergency if one were to occur.”

Guaranteed income has become increasingly popular as the COVID-19 pandemic left millions jobless and prompted the federal government to send out stimulus checks and other relief.

Dozens of cities and counties across the country, including Oakland and Stockton, have been experimenting with giving some low-income residents a guaranteed income.

In July, the California Legislature approved the first state-funded guaranteed income plan in the U.S., with $35 million for monthly cash payments to qualifying pregnant women and young adults who recently left foster care.

And Compton last year started giving 800 low-income residents $300 to $600 a month as part of a two-year program.

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