Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti holds his annual State of the City address from the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, CA, USA, 19 April 2021. (GARY CORONADO/POOL/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

LA Mayor Proposes New Anti-Poverty Measure That Would Give Free Cash to Poor City Residents

The Public Policy Institute of California has estimated that more than 20% of people residing in Los Angeles live at or below the national poverty line, making less than $25,500 a year. But a new $24-million anti-poverty program proposed by Mayor Eric Garcetti would give free cash to some individuals — no strings attached — in an effort to help them become more financially well off.

Dakota Smith of the Los Angeles Times has reported that “Garcetti’s $24-million Basic Income Guaranteed program, which will be included in his city budget to be released [on April 21], would provide $1,000 a month to 2,000 Los Angeles families for a year. There will be no obligation on how to spend the money, according to the mayor’s office.”

Garcetti’s program has been dubbed “BIG: LEAP” (Basic Income Guaranteed: L.A. Economic Assistance Pilot).

Smaller cities across the U.S., including Stockton, California; Jackson, Mississippi; St. Paul, Minnesota; Richmond, Virginia; and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, have already experimented with similar progressive “universal basic income” programs that provide a free monthly stipend to a small pool of residents who qualify for the support.

The Los Angeles City Council has also unveiled plans to spend more than $11 million in funds originally part of the Los Angeles Police Department budget and divert it toward similar income initiatives in South L.A. and the San Fernando Valley.

The South L.A. district program is expected to launch this summer and will provide monthly payments of $1,000 for a year to 500 single-parent households. In Compton, the city’s “Compton Pledge” program will pay $300 to $600 a month to 800 residents for up to two years.

“A Garcetti spokesman said the $24-million allocation for a citywide program would be in addition to those proposed efforts,” Smith reported. “The mayor’s budget requires approval by the City Council. If passed, the program would be the largest experiment of its kind in the United States.”

Smith reports that Garcetti is a member of a group of politicians supporting similar measures called the Mayors for a Basic Guaranteed Income. The program launched in 2020 and “advocates for a guaranteed income at the local, state and federal levels.”

In a statement he issued when the group launched, Garcetti said, “Too many Americans are one missed paycheck away from an eviction or being unable to put food on the table — and that was true long before COVID-19.”

In an interview with LAist (part of the Southern California Public Radio network), Garcetti expanded on that idea, saying, “We have to end America’s addiction to poverty. 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 space to not only dream of a better life but to actualize it.”

LAist reporter Libby Denkmann wrote that, according to the Mayor’s office, “the selection criteria for participant households is still being developed but will likely include supporting a child under the age of 18 and a demonstrated medical or financial hardship connected to COVID-19. Each council district would have a share of funding based on its poverty rate. The program would be open to everyone regardless of immigration status.”


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