A new bill, co-led by Congressman Robert Garcia, proposes making universal basic income for foster youth a reality at the federal level.

Long Beach’s former mayor and co-lead Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D-MN) introduced the Guaranteed Income for Foster Youth Act on Thursday, Jan. 18. If passed, the legislation would give $1,000 a month for five years through a new federal program to young adults exiting the foster care system.

Some 22% of foster care youth have experienced homelessness for at least one night within the first year of emancipation, according to studies referenced Thursday by the Administration for Children & Families.

Those who entered foster care after age 14, those who exited foster care after age 16 and former foster youth under 27 years old would be eligible to apply for the program. All eligible youth will be automatically enrolled in the program after they turn 18 years old, and be able to participate in voluntary financial literacy education.

The bill was endorsed by Mayors and Counties for a Guaranteed Income, a coalition formed in 2020 that spans the U.S., and included Garcia while he was mayor of Long Beach at the time.

When Garcia was mayor, Long Beach became one of 15 cities to offer an unconditional basic income pilot program, which was funded by the Long Beach Recovery Act and private money. The program, Long Beach Pledge, received roughly 2,800 applications after its launch. So far, 250 families in the lowest-income zip code have been accepted into the program and will receive a $500 per month payment over the next year. The program, now under Mayor Rex Richardson, will accept a second cohort of 200 participants and is currently accepting applications.

“As Mayor of Long Beach, we built and launched a transformational Guaranteed Income program that is now directly helping hundreds of low income families,” Garcia said in a statement. “That’s why I am so proud to introduce the Guaranteed Income for Foster Youth Act, because there are major gaps in the federal foster system, and we need to be building on the lessons of pilot programs like those in my home state of California.”

Read the full text of the bill here.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to clarify how Long Beach’s unconditional basic income program was funded.