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LA Mayor Garcetti asks for $24 million to fund basic income guarantee program

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The mayor of Los Angeles will reportedly ask the city council to fund a $24 million program in next year’s budget to provide a guaranteed monthly income to 2,000 L.A.-area families as part of a pilot program to ‘end’ poverty, according to a published report.

“We have to end America’s addiction to poverty,” Democratic Mayor Eric Garcetti said in an interview with LAist.

“For families who can’t think past the next bill, the next shift or the next health problem that they have, we can give them the space to not only dream of a better life, but to actualize it,” he added of the taxpayer-funded program.

The program, “BIG: LEAP,” which stands for Basic Income Guaranteed: L.A. Economic Assistance Pilot, and aims to provide thousands of families who are at or below the poverty level with a $1,000 per month payment sans any serious preconditions. Officials have not yet established all of the qualifications, but the report suggested that families raising at least one child under the age of 18 as well as those who have demonstrated financial and/or medical hardships because of the COVID-19 pandemic are more likely to be selected.

Garcetti is expected to introduce the experimental program as part of his “Equity and Justice Budget” proposal that he will unveil during his State of the City speech.

“This pandemic has thrown everything up in the air,” Garcetti said. “This is an America willing to say, If we were so good, why did so many people die? Why was it so disproportionate in certain communities? And if we’re not as good as we thought we were, how can we become better?”

The mayor went on to say he plans to “transform systems” using $1.3 billion the city received from the American Rescue Plan passed by Congress earlier this year.

“This is not small ball. It isn’t just the biggest budget I’ve overseen — it’s the most progressive, and I would argue the most progressive in the country,” Garcetti told the LAist.

Michael Tubbs, the former Democratic mayor of Stockton, Calif., told The Hill in a recent interview that his city’s experiment with a guaranteed basic income did not perpetuate unemployment or lead some to quit jobs as some people had predicted. But then, his city’s award was just $500, which he said “was enough to allow people to exit exploitative jobs, exploitative relationships and find full-time work when stable hours with benefits.”

“[It] allowed people to pay for things like transportation and childcare and interview clothes, which makes them more likely to find full-time employment,” he said, according to The Hill.

Other California liberal leaders are implementing similar programs, including Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, though she was called a racist last month after rolling the program out for only wanting to include poor families of color.

The more than 10,000 white families living under the poverty line in Oakland were specifically excluded from the privately-funded initiative.

In defending the exclusion of whites, Schaaf said “the reason for limiting eligibility to black, indigenous, and other people of color was that white households in Oakland make on average about three times as much as black households” — though, again, there are white families in the city living below the poverty line.

Jon Dougherty

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