We are at a promising but fragile period in our history. We have just experienced the utter devastation of a pandemic that has cost millions of lives, jobs, security and hard-fought earnings. Breaking down the losses would take up all the pages of this document. Yet these cracks begin to shine with light. With California’s economy now joining many other parts of the country officially open for business, there is a semblance of a return to “normal” for the country.
While it is promising to see our recovery underway, we must take into account that our normally functioning society was simply not working for a large part of the population. For black and brown Americans, normalcy has never worked. Even before the pandemic, we had a skyrocketing inequality. The average white family had 10 times the wealth of a black family. In Los Angeles, the numbers are even more staggering: Black and Mexican families hold 1 / 90th of the wealth of their white counterparts.
As we grapple with the twin crisis of financial havoc and racial injustice, we need to focus and prioritize solutions that address both. This is why we are working on the largest guaranteed income program managed by the country. Guaranteed Income, a cash supplement provided to poor and middle-class Americans, is a concept with a long history of supporters, especially in racial justice movements. From NWRO’s Johnnie Tillmon to Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. to the Black Panthers, everyone has seen the promise of unrestricted cash payments to directly address the scourge of poverty and finally close the racial income gap that our nation has allowed it for far too long.
This idea has been tested on a smaller scale with extremely promising results – data from the first year of Stockton’s SEED program distributing a guaranteed income of $ 500 per month for 24 months to 125 residents revealed that the economic stability provided by payments helped beneficiaries find full-time employment. employment at more than twice the rate of non-beneficiaries. People were healthier, happier, and financially stronger. You would be hard-pressed to come up with a think tank policy or a government-funded training program with more potential.
In Los Angeles, we will show how to scale this program both in terms of size and funding. The supervisory board recently adopted a county-wide poverty reduction policy program, including the establishment of a guaranteed income program that will provide a minimum of 1,000 residents with $ 1,000 per month. during three years. This builds on the efforts of other towns in the county, including Compton, Long Beach, and Santa Monica; combined, we will serve over 4,000 recipients. This, coupled with equity-based city and county budgeting, could alter the disparity outcomes for even more Angelenos by providing resources to those who need them most.
In addition to its historic size, our efforts in Los Angeles County also stand out for their use of public funds. The vast majority of recent guaranteed income programs have been funded by philanthropic funds, a necessary means to test big ideas – but ultimately unsustainable on a widespread level. Under the leadership of Mayor Eric Garcetti, the City of Los Angeles will break away from a traditional budget approach focused on filling short-term gaps towards a “justice budget” – directing municipal dollars towards projects that advance a long-term goal of building a fair city. Pilots across the county will be fully funded by $ 40 million in public dollars, a first in the country. We will also be helped by Governor Gavin Newsom’s announcement of $ 35 million in matching funds for guaranteed income pilots – making California the first state to invest money in guaranteed income pilots.
Between our local and state efforts to establish species-based policies, California serves as a role model for other states, as well as the federal government. The reason money works is simple: When the problem is that people don’t have enough money, the most direct and effective way to solve it is to give them more. This has a cascading effect, not only by addressing the immediate problem of lack of funds, but by unleashing the invaluable benefits that come with economic security. The possibility of leaving the carpool night shift after having already worked full time during the day. Knowing that if your child gets sick, you won’t have to choose between taking a day off or paying the rent.
Too many of our country’s social support programs are too complex and bureaucratic, assuming that the underlying problem behind economic precariousness is to ‘fix’ the individual rather than the system that allowed for widespread poverty and inequality in Canada. first place. Cash changes the one-size-fits-all approach to a recognition that people are the best experts on their own needs. We don’t put restrictions on how businesses spend the guaranteed income they receive through massive tax breaks and government incentives, so why did we allow half a century of net policy? security built around the idea that Americans cannot be trusted with money?
We’re starting to get out of triage mode last year, and in a time that will ultimately be just as important – the ways we are rebuilding our economy, including the things we are leaving behind in favor of a different kind of. world . One in which millions of our friends and neighbors are not hungry. The one in which a Black Angeleno has the same chance to create wealth as his white colleague. A country in which, for the very first time in our country’s history, we are truly a nation where everyone has an equal chance to thrive.
Michael Tubbs is the former mayor of Stockton and founder of Mayors for a Guaranteed Income. Holly Mitchell sits on the Los Angeles County Board of Directors.