The California Department of Social Services has awarded $25 million in grant funding to seven guaranteed-income pilot projects serving pregnant women and young people aging out of the state’s foster care system.
“These pilots will serve as an important opportunity to assess the impact of an economic intervention during key life transitions, such as the birth of a child or entry into independence after extended foster care,” Department of Social Services Director Kim Johnson stated in a press release today.
The project received its funding last July when, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) and the California Legislature approved a $35 million guaranteed income pilot program as part of the state budget. The funding prioritized former foster youth ages 21 and older and pregnant people, and requires a 50% match with local governments or philanthropies. It is expected to be distributed next year, after a six-month planning period.
The state-funded pilot programs will serve approximately 1,975 residents up and down California over the next three years, with monthly payments ranging from $600 to $1,200 per month. The payments will continue for a period of 12 to 18 months, officials say. All pilot projects will be evaluated by researchers at the Urban Institute and UC Berkeley.
Four pilot projects will serve former foster youth, including a statewide program overseen by the nonprofit advocacy group iFoster, which will issue 300 former foster youth payments of $750 a month for 18 months. One hundred and fifty youth will be served in each of three additional locations: San Francisco, Ventura County and the state’s Inland Empire, receiving from $600 to $1,200 per month for 18 months.
Over the past three years, dozens of cities, counties and states have invested in similar projects that guarantee local residents unconditional, regular cash payments as an anti-poverty measure.
Stockton was the first city to try out the idea and study the results. A 2021 evaluation of the Central Valley city’s experiment found that financial security among recipients increased as a result of the program, as well as the number of people able to transition to full-time employment. The study also noted that recipients experienced lower levels of stress and improved mental health.
Former Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs, California’s special advisor for economic mobility and opportunity, said he’s proud that California is following his former city’s lead. “Just as we saw with the pilot I led as mayor of Stockton, I’m confident these funds will provide crucial support for families and strengthen our communities,” he said.
Santa Clara County was the first place in the nation to extend such support to young people transitioning out of government care. In June 2020, supervisors approved a plan that awards a $1,000 no-strings-attached payment to dozens of former foster youth in the county. Since then, Alameda County and the city of South San Francisco have also elected to use the method to help former foster youth.
The largest state-funded guaranteed income program serving former foster youth will be run by iFoster, a nonprofit that has developed a leading jobs program for foster youth and has distributed thousands of smartphones and computers to young people during the pandemic.
Under the new guaranteed income program, the Truckee, California-based organization will provide young people aging out of the state’s foster care system with a reliable source of support during the transition to adulthood. CEO of iFoster Serita Cox said the pilot project will include young people from both urban and rural regions of the state, and provide support to young people not currently served by similar financial assistance programs.
“We view this as a stepping stone for youth exiting care,” Cox said. “This would provide a ramp to self-sufficiency where they can get the breathing room needed to get job skills training or internship, secure a job that pays a living wage, get stable housing and continue with college.”
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