Long Beach guaranteed income program on track to start payments by early this summer

The city of Long Beach is one step closer to administering $500 monthly payments to single-parent households in its poorest neighborhood.

Payments may begin as early as this summer, according to city officials.

The Long Beach Guaranteed Income Pilot program will give the monthly stipend for a year to up to 500 single-parent households in the 90813 ZIP code, which includes parts of Central and West Long Beach. The area has the highest concentration of poverty within the city and was one of the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition to the stipend, participating families will also receive free child care, transportation support, workforce training and support for digital inclusion like cell phones and internet connection.

Last spring, the Cal State Long Beach Office of Economic Research assisted the city in developing a framework for the program and determined that the 90813 ZIP code was the area with the most need. In the 90813 ZIP code, 24% of families are living below the federal poverty line, said Seiji Steimetz, director of CSULB’s Office of Economic Research. Among those families, over half of them—about 1,500—are headed by a single parent, said Steimetz.

Income programs have become increasingly popular in recent years. Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia is part of a growing coalition of 62 mayors across the country who announced in July of 2020 that they would be pursuing basic income programs in their own cities.

In a similar program in Stockton in 2019,  125 people received $500 per month for two years and were able to pay off debt, get full-time jobs and reported lower rates of anxiety and depression, according to a study within the first year of the program.

Last July, California lawmakers also approved the first state-funded guaranteed income plan, granting $35 million for monthly cash payments to qualifying pregnant people and young adults who recently left foster care.

The Long Beach pilot, meanwhile, will help single parents like Diana Garcia, 48, who lives in the Washington neighborhood with her 17-year-old son. Garcia earns minimum wage as a food service worker with limited hours due to a medical condition and is currently over $1,000 behind on her electricity bill.

Another resident, Maria Barrera, 36, said she is also struggling to keep up with her utility bills and keep food on the table for her 15-year-old son and 1-year-old daughter. Barrera works as a housekeeper and earns $1,200 a month.

“My biggest concern day by day would be paying the bills and the rent,” she said.

The city expects to start accepting applications in the next few months with payments starting by early summer, according to Lucius Martin, special project officer for the Long Beach Department of Economic Development.

The program is made possible by the Long Beach Recovery Act, a plan backed by federal and state recovery funds to pay for economic and public health initiatives for Long Beach residents impacted by the pandemic, and also through seed money that was donated by Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey in 2020 to help select cities create these kinds of pilot programs.

The $1.6 million program will allow for 250 families to receive the funds on a rolling basis starting this summer, and that number will eventually rise to serve up to 500 families. “I think basic income programs are the way of the future,” Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia said in an interview with the Post.

The Long Beach initiative will follow last week’s launch of Los Angeles County’s guaranteed income pilot program, Breathe. The program began accepting applications on Thursday for certain residents to receive $1,000 a month for three years.

Residents in some geographic regions of Long Beach are eligible to apply, including those in the 90813 ZIP code. To be considered for the county program, they must apply by April 13.

Martin said that while households in the 90813 ZIP code are encouraged to apply for the LA County program, families who are chosen will not be eligible to participate in the Long Beach one.

The two programs also have different requirements: The Long Beach guaranteed income program will be specifically for single-parent households in the 90813 neighborhood with incomes below the poverty line or those earning $27,000 and below, while the requirements for LA County’s Breathe program are broader.

To qualify, residents must live in an LA County neighborhood with an area median household income no higher than the county’s, along with an income that is no higher than the area median for those living alone and no more than 20% above the county median for a household with two or more people. To determine eligibility, residents can search for their address on the Breathe website.

The Long Beach program, like the LA County one, will be open to noncitizens as long as they reside in the 90813 ZIP code, said Martin. “We’re not looking at whether someone’s a citizen of the United States or whether they have a social security number,” he said.

The city is currently in the process of choosing two separate vendors that will help administer the funds and conduct the research portion of the program. The research will examine where and how recipients are spending their money, along with the overall value of this type of initiative.

According to Martin, officials hope to simplify the process as much as possible for families in need.

“They will not have to do anything other than fill out a monthly survey on how they spent their money,” he said.

Along with the funding provided to families, the city will also work with community partners and organizations to provide services to the 90813 neighborhood, including child care and employment opportunities, among other forms of support.

Officials had hoped to begin accepting applications last summer, but the process was put on hold as the city determined whether the funds would be counted as part of an individual’s gross income. In certain cases, this could determine whether or not an individual would be eligible for federal programs or food assistance, said Martin.

But in January, the U.S. Treasury Department confirmed that American Rescue Plan Act  funds used to assist individuals impacted by COVID-19 will not be counted toward annual gross income and the city was able to move forward, said Martin.

The city is still working out the details on how the program will work, how funds will be allocated and the specific requirements needed to serve the city’s most vulnerable population, but officials expect to have updates in the next few weeks.

“If (the program) is successful, and I think it will be, I think that the city can look at expanding programs like this and hopefully the federal government will also weigh in,” Garcia said, “and also try to expand programs like this.”

Staff writer Jason Ruiz and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Laura Anaya-Morga is a general assignment reporter for the Long Beach Post.
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