“A life-changing initiative.” That’s how South LA Councilman Curren Price, who led the creation of the city’s Basic Income Guaranteed: Los Angeles Economic Assistance Pilot (BIG LEAP) program, described this nearly $40 million basic income effort. It’s the biggest such program in the country, and it officially got underway last month — at a time when other cities are likewise moving to try out this same concept.
This also comes against the backdrop of stimulus checks drying up at the federal level. Leaving states and cities to step into the gap, if they so choose — as, indeed, many are doing now.
Los Angeles, as we said, is one of the most prominent examples.
The basic idea here: LA-area families that are chosen to participate get up to $1,000/month for a year. With no strings attached as far as how they’re allowed to spend the money. “It’s going to be a lifeline, and it’s an opportunity to move beyond poverty, we hope,” Price told Fox 11 Los Angeles. “It’s going to be a grand experiment, the largest one in our country so far.”
In explaining the motivation for a program like this, the website for the LA effort goes on to explain that employment, by itself, can’t always break the cycle of poverty.
“And research has consistently demonstrated that direct cash aid is a powerful tool for ensuring greater stability for vulnerable Americans.”
Cities offering guaranteed payments
The concept of offering Americans a basic income was thrust into the spotlight in 2020, when presidential candidate Andrew Yang pushed a basic income proposal as a way of dealing with the then-economic fallout associated with the Covid pandemic. His plan called for giving $1,000 each month to Americans over 18 years old.
Meanwhile, here’s a look at other cities around the US experimenting with this same idea:
- The city of Newark, New Jersey, recently expanded a UBI program there to 400 residents. Each of the participants is getting a total of $12,000 over two years. The participants are low-income and have to prove a hardship of some kind stemming from the Covid pandemic.
- In Durham, North Carolina, 115 formerly incarcerated residents are getting $500/month payments for a year under the city’s Excel pilot program. The objective is “to evaluate guaranteed income’s effects on recidivism and re-incarceration, employment, economic security, and income volatility.”
- A similar program in Rochester, New York, is giving 175 low-income families $500 payments over 12 months. Then those same monthly payments will go to a different group of 175 families.
Guaranteed income elsewhere in the US
Other examples: In September, Pittsburgh City Council members signaled their support of a similar program. There, 200 low-income residents would get a $500 monthly payment for two years. Which would equate to $12,000 by the end of the program for each recipient.
The former is launching its basic income program this spring, giving 200 families $500/month for 24 months. Likewise, Philadelphia’s is starting in March, and it will give 60 people $500/month for a year.