Lawmakers in California approved a state-funded guaranteed income plan for qualified “pregnant people” and young adults leaving the foster care system. The plan is the first in the nation, and individuals can use the money for whatever they want.
The bill passed unanimously and budgets $35 million in taxpayer money for monthly payments of up to $1,000 to qualified residents. The Associated Press reports, “local governments and organizations will apply for the money and run their programs. The state Department of Social Services will decide who gets funding. California lawmakers left it up to local officials to determine the size of the monthly payments.”
Former mayor of Stockton, California, and advisor to Governor Gavin Newsom, Michael Tubbs, said: “Now there is momentum, things are moving quickly, the next stop is the federal government.” Tubbs, a Democrat, became mayor of Stockton in 2017 and made national news by implementing a privately funded $500 a month guaranteed income plan in his city. He was defeated by Republican Kevin Lincoln and replaced as mayor in 2021.
In the past, government assistance programs had limits on how the money could be spent. Senator Dave Cortese of San Jose said that the bill “…changes the philosophy from ‘big brother government knows what’s best for you.’ “
However, the bill is not entirely free from criticism. Republican Assemblyman Vince Fong of Bakersfield, who abstained from voting on the bill, said it would “undermine incentives to work and increase dependence on government.” Fong went on to say, “We should be pushing policies that encourage the value of work. Guaranteed income doesn’t provide the job training and skills needed for upward mobility.”
Guaranteed income plans have recently been announced in New Orleans, Oakland, Los Angeles, Tacoma, and Gainesville. The idea of guaranteed income or “universal basic income” became popular after Presidential hopeful Andrew Yang championed it during the 2020 campaign. Since stimulus checks went out to Americans during the covid-19 lockdowns, some Democrats have suggested that the checks should be extended beyond the pandemic.
On March 30th, 21 Democrat Senators wrote a letter to President Biden asking him to include direct payments to Americans in his infrastructure plan. The letter stated in part, “We urge you to include recurring direct payments and automatic unemployment insurance extensions tied to economic conditions in your Build Back Better long-term economic plan.”
The letter continued, “when the CARES Act relief checks ran out, poverty rose, and many families saw spiraling debt.” The President hasn’t said if recurring checks will become permanent, but Democrats are hoping California has paved the way for such payments nationwide.