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South LA Residents Begin Applying For Guaranteed Basic Income Program In Council District 9

A man with dark skin, gray hair and wearing a mid-tone blue suit and later tie gestures at a lectern with the sign Curren D. Price, Jr New 9th
L.A. City Councilmember Curren Price speaks at a news conference
(Robert Garrova
/
LAist)
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Starting today, eligible families can apply for the Big:Leap, LA's guaranteed basic income program. It's being partially funded by Councilmember Curren Price whose office began answering questions and offering help to those applying for the pilot program.

Residents stood in line at his district office on South Central Ave., looking for a chance at the $1000 per month stipend that comes with no strings attached. The money will be distributed to approximately 3,200 families who will be selected in a random drawing and required to meet five criteria:

  • must live within the city of L.A.
  • be at least 18 years of age or older
  • have at least one dependent child or be pregnant
  • have experienced financial and/or medical hardships related to the COVID-19 pandemic
  • have an income at or below the federal poverty level

Who Is Applying

Karen Ramirez was one of the dozens of people waiting in line. She has a son and supports her parents as well. Her mother and father are street vendors but Ramirez is reluctant to let them work.

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“The street vendors getting assaulted is really dangerous,” said Ramirez. “My father has diabetes and my mom has arthritis in her hands and in her legs.”

Price said that his office will help people gather necessary documentation and in the case of street vendors who "might not have all the documentation about income, about pay — we’ll be working with individuals.”

Alexis Barbre and Shamane Draper both live in Price’s district and plan to use the money to support their children.

“One, take care of my baby and then the rest goes on bills,” said Barbre.

Draper agreed saying, “the same for me, bills.” And for her 5 year old son? She’ll purchase “school clothes, school products.”

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Some in line, like Julia who does not have a dependent under the age of 18, stood in line anyway, hoping for some assistance in making ends meet.

“Of course if I’m on the poverty level,” she said. “I’m barely making it.”

Councilman Price said that for those who don’t qualify, his office is ready to refer them to a variety of other services available through the city and county.

“No one’s going to be turned away,” Price said,

Who Else Is Doing This

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While Los Angeles’ guaranteed basic income program is the largest in the country, with $38 million dollars set to be distributed beginning in January 2022, it’s not the country’s first. Los Angeles County approved a similar pilot program earlier this year. And Long Beach announced a pilot program this summer.

The city of Stockton adopted one of the country’s earliest UBI programs in 2019. Researchers studied the effects the program had on 125 recipients of the guaranteed income and found that many of them were able to find full-time work and reported improved mental health as a result. The study also showed that most of the money was spent on basic needs such as food, merchandise, utilities and auto costs.

People can apply for the basic income pilot program until November 7th at bigleap.lacity.org. Those who need help applying can visit one of six drop-in centers, including Councilmember Price's district office on South Central Avenue.

Applicants who meet the criteria will be asked to fill out a multi-page questionnaire as part of a study run by the University of Pennsylvania. Once accepted, people are not obligated to participate any further in that study. Another group of applicants will also be selected to take part in a comparison group. They will not receive monthly payments, but will receive gift cards for their participation.

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