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Guaranteed Basic Income Takes A Step Forward In L.A. County

Image of L.A. County Supervisor Holly Mitchell.
Supervisor Holly Mitchell.
AFP via Getty Images)
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The possibility of a guaranteed basic income program in L.A. County took a step forward on Tuesday with a vote by the L.A County Board of Supervisors.

The supervisors voted 4-1 to pass two motions: One co-authored by Holly Mitchell and Sheila Kuehl, and another by Board Chair Hilda Solis. They both give staff 60 days to devise a guaranteed income pilot program for a small number of low-income county residents.

The Kuehl and Mitchell motion calls for a plan to give at least 1,000 people across the county a minimum of $1,000 per month for three years. The target population hasn’t been determined, but Mitchell and Kuehl say the aim is to reduce the racial and gender wealth gap, and that youth transitioning out of foster care, women recently released from prison, and domestic violence survivors should get special consideration.

“Prior to the COVID-19 epidemic, the safety net failed to address the structural issues that have been keeping many children and their families trapped in poverty,” Kuehl and Mitchell wrote in the motion, which also notes the historic obstacles Black people and women have faced in the workplace and housing markets.

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In an interview, Mitchell said the cash will help stabilize household finances and give people agency to decide what are their greatest needs.

“It’s a faith and belief that families will always do what they can and put their children first,” Mitchell said. “This assumption that we should trust [families in poverty] less than any other income group is a problem.”

Supervisor Kathryn Barger cast the lone no vote. In a statement, she expressed concerns about fraud after the recent statewide Employment Development Department scandal.

Mitchell and Kuehl’s motion also creates a ninth mission statement for the county. The mission statements are called Board Directed Priorities, and they range from Environmental Oversight to Criminal Justice Reform. The new one is a “Countywide Poverty Alleviation Initiative.”

If a basic income program is ultimately implemented, L.A. County would join other local jurisdictions — including Long Beach and Compton — in testing the idea of no-strings-attached payments.

L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti called for funding a 2,000-person pilot in his proposed budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1. The city council is currently assessing the mayor’s budget.