Interest in programs that promise a guaranteed level of income to recipients in participating cities — sometimes called a universal basic income or guaranteed income program — has surged during the COVID-19 pandemic.
That’s arguably at least partly a result of people seeing the fruits of this kind of thing for themselves. In the before times, people might have regarded them through mostly a political lens. When, as a consequence, it was much easier to be dismissive of such efforts as too big-government. Think about the idea that government should guarantee health care to people, including paying for it. That used to be one of the most bitterly contested political disputes in this country. Now, thanks to the coronavirus? People expected the government to pay for testing, for vaccination, and for care associated with contracting the disease. The pandemic wiped out businesses and pummeled many state and local economies, which is also why people turned to the government for stimulus checks and other financial aid.
California guaranteed income program
People can argue about whether the steps that governments have taken along these lines have been appropriate. The fact of the matter, though, is that millions of people expected it all. And they have now been conditioned to approve of this kind of government intervention.
So it’s no wonder that a major US city like Los Angeles is now embarking on a newly approved guaranteed income program. Other cities, including Ann Arbor and Chicago, are also taking a look at this same thing.
Los Angeles is, in fact, launching the biggest experiment in the entire US along these lines. The city council there approved the $40 million Basic Income Guaranteed: Los Angeles Economic Assistance Pilot (BIG LEAP) program in recent days. It will give about 3,000 families currently living in poverty $1,000 a month for 12 months. With no strings attached as far as how recipients can spend the money.
Accepting applications now
The city is taking applications from potential participants at bigleap.lacity.org through November 7 at 11:59 pm. The plan is for the city to pick around 3,000 households at random to start getting the $1,000/month payments. Something for which the city has earmarked $40 million.
“The idea of a (Guaranteed Basic Income) pilot program is one my office has been following for some time,” Los Angeles councilman Curren Price told. “And it gained momentum as we witnessed our country examine the racial disparities and social injustices during the COVID pandemic.
“It’s my hope that following the conclusion of this pilot program, that it’ll be replicated at the state and federal level.”