On Tuesday, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors announced a $7.7 million plan for guaranteed income to transition-age youth, following similar efforts statewide to offer no-strings-attached cash to vulnerable young adults.
Over the next three years, the county will provide monthly payments of about $1,200 to 150 young adults to support their education or job training. Residents ages 18 through 24 who are currently receiving “general relief” welfare benefits and who participate in a county workforce development program will be eligible.
Many of these transition-age youth, referred to by the acronym TAY, have spent time in foster care or the juvenile justice system, and have limited career and education opportunities, according to a motion co-authored by Supervisors Hilda Solis and Janice Hahn. About 31% of these young people are homeless and lack a support system.
“The pandemic has robbed many TAY of opportunities to seek gainful employment,” the motion reads. “Without increased financial support during and immediately after the pandemic, TAY will face severe challenges to achieve permanent self-sufficiency.”
Young adults who are part of the county-funded general relief program receive $221 per month in benefits and do not qualify for other state or federal cash assistance programs. Participation in the program would not jeopardize their ability to qualify for other safety-net services, according to a report from the county’s Department of Public Social Services.
The new guaranteed income pilot will serve young people who are participating in TAYportunity, a county employment program that offers jobs, apprenticeships and entrepreneurial opportunities to young adults. In addition to monthly payments, participants would have access to wraparound services and job placement assistance.
Ruby Rivera, director of community organizing for InnerCity Struggle, a nonprofit organization that serves youth and their families in Boyle Heights, said guaranteed income offered a way for transition-age youth to escape the “poverty trap” of scant welfare benefits.
“General relief is supportive but a long-term solution that equips young people with the tools needed for long-term success is necessary,” Rivera said at Tuesday’s meeting.
While L.A.’s pilot is not defined as a “universal basic income” — those eligible must participate in the TAYportunity program — it follows several efforts to provide cash without any conditions to young people as they transition into adulthood.
Earlier this month, the California Legislature and Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) agreed to fund a $35 million program providing a monthly check of up to $1,000 to some of the approximately 2,500 young people who exit foster care each year. That program was modeled on a similar effort in Santa Clara County that allows former foster youth to receive universal basic income after they have left the system.
Not all county supervisors in Los Angeles have supported the idea of guaranteed income for needy groups. In May, Supervisor Kathryn Barger expressed concerns about whether the basic income pilot approved today would succeed in L.A. County.
“Implementation of ‘Guaranteed Basic Income’ has yet to be fully researched and vetted in a jurisdiction comparable to ours,” Barger said in a statement. “As the largest county in the nation, we should be more diligent, thoughtful and strategic before we implement a program of this nature.”
To address the program’s success, the board plans to hire a researcher to evaluate the impact of the guaranteed income pilot project.