Families in the city of Sacramento can now apply to be one of 80 households chosen for the second edition of a local guaranteed basic income program.
Chosen participants will receive monthly payments of $500, no strings attached, for 12 months starting in July 2023.
“We know that things are really, really expensive right now,” said Dawnté Early, president and CEO of United Way California Capital Region, which is administering the program. “The idea that we’re going to be able to help families who really need it right now — that’s really exciting.”
Guaranteed income’s no-strings-attached model presents an alternative to traditional social safety net programs, which typically place strict limits on how recipients can use the money. Policymakers are increasingly showing greater openness to direct cash assistance programs in the wake of the pandemic’s economic turmoil.
More California municipalities have embraced guaranteed income pilots in recent years, and the state launched its own $25.5 million pilot in late 2022.
Successful trials, such as Stockton’s Economic Empowerment Demonstration, have found that participants largely use the money to meet basic needs such as food, clothing and housing. Stockton participants also had higher employment rates, improved happiness levels and were better equipped to handle sudden emergency expenses, according to a post-trial study.
Critics of guaranteed basic income programs have generally argued they might sway people away from seeking work, similar to fears expressed about unemployment benefits.
Applications opened Wednesday for Sacramento’s program, which is funded through a combination of federal COVID-19 relief dollars and United Way’s private donors. The deadline to apply is the end of April 14 and applicants must live in the city of Sacramento and meet income requirements determined by household size. A single adult must earn less than $28,205 to qualify, for example, and a single parent with one child must earn less than $49,945.
United Way launched the first Sacramento basic income pilot in June 2021. As part of that trial, the nonprofit has given 100 low-income residents in the county $300 a month, and will continue to do so through June of this year.
Unlike the initial trial run, the second iteration of the program will last only 12 months rather than 24, but the monthly payments will rise to $500 from $300 based on feedback from the first cohort. In June 2022, the Sacramento City Council approved $750,000 in funding for the next installment of the program.
Researchers at Sacramento State will formally evaluate and analyze data from the second rendition of the program, an option for which funding wasn’t available the first time around.
“This round it was really, really important to set aside some dollars to be able to do the formal evaluation piece as well,” Early said. “When you’re wanting to truly see if something is working or not, that’s the way that you should do it.”
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