Los Angeles, CA

Los Angeles' guaranteed income experiment focuses on residents in downtown areas

Michael Loren

This week, Los Angeles officials announced that their Guaranteed Basic Income pilot project is set to begin in the coming months. 3,200 families who are able to prove that they are below the poverty line will receive $1,000 per month for 12 months. No strings attached.

This is one of the first instances where unrestricted cash assistance has been offered in Los Angeles since the 1990s and many families are looking forward to the opportunity to apply. In Los Angeles, the poverty line is drawn at a maximum income of $17,420 for a family of 2, $21,960 for a family of 3, and $26,500 for a family of 4. That comes out to $1,450, $1,830, and $2,208 respectively. And introduction of $1,000 monthly will obviously make a huge impact on families trying to survive in Los Angeles on these salaries.

The thing that makes this project different than other similar aid efforts in Los Angeles is that there is no specification (made by the government or other agency) for how families must spend this money. They may spend it as they wish. This factor makes this experiment an interesting trial for many other local governments around the country (and the world).

One of the hardest hit communities is that of families living in downtown and south central Los Angeles. This includes many individuals and families who do not have permanent housing. In 2020, there were 4,891 people without homes living in district 9 alone. District 9 council member Curren Price says, "With a median income of $30,000 our community suffers immensely." This infusion of additional income could be a big help.

Some Los Angeles residents are concerned about the lack of oversight on how the money will be spent. Echo Park resident Farrah Santiago expressed her concern saying, "How do we know they're not going to waste this money and spend it on drugs, alcohol, or illegal weapons?" She continues, "If I earn my money myself, I get to choose how I spend it. If it's a gift and meant to help me, I should have to prove I'm trying to help myself."

While most Los Angeles residents approve of some sort of Guaranteed Basic Income, this movement, the largest in the country so far, will be an experiment that the rest of the country watches with much interest. Will "free money" become one of the most effective ways to battle Los Angeles' homeless challenges? Perhaps. We will all have to wait and see.

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Professional writer and journalist with concentration in data analysis. I specialize in interpreting data to give you unbiased, understandable information related to the state of California.

Los Angeles, CA
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