Long Beach to begin planning for ‘basic income’ pilot program

The Long Beach City Council on Tuesday will begin planning for a privately funded pilot program that will eventually provide a guaranteed income for some residents.

Long Beach is one of 15 cities taking part in the basic income pilot program, which is funded through private money, including $3 million from Twitter founder Jack Dorsey.

Mayor Robert Garcia, a major proponent of the effort, said the program is an innovative approach to address the city’s widening income gap.

“The Coronavirus has affected every corner of the nation wreaking havoc on people’s lives and the overall economy,” the mayor said in a letter to the City Council.

The council in its regular meeting on Tuesday will direct city staff to seek additional grants and private funding for the program and begin work to determine how many residents will participate and how much income each person would receive.

The effort is led by Mayors for a Guaranteed Income, a coalition of 15 mayors from cities including Oakland, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Newark, New Jersey and Columbia, South Carolina.

The initial program was launched in the city of Stockton last year and local leaders say it is showing promising results. The program randomly selected 125 Stockton residents to receive $500 a month for 18 months. The cash could be used for anything.

The results showed that 40% of the income was spent on food, while 25% was spent on merchandise and about 12% was spent on utilities. Less than 2% of the recipients were unemployed.

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Kelly Puente is a general assignment and special projects reporter at the Long Beach Post. Her prolific reporting has taken her all over Southern California—even to the small Catalina Island town of Two Harbors. She is a Tiki mug collector and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in public policy and administration at Cal State Long Beach. Reach her at [email protected].