Advocates are experimenting with a new type of income assistance


Name the physically demanding job that is likely to be on your Kelvin Marshall resume. He’s been in the workforce for decades but struggled to keep up with the exorbitant cost of living in San Diego when the pandemic hit.

The single father was selected earlier this year for a program that is piloting a different type of help known as guaranteed income. Unlike most other forms of luxury, this one can be spent on whatever he wants.

The Marshall Islands is one of 150 indigenous families in the the pilot Led by San Diego for Every Child, a non-profit organization sponsored by the Jewish Family Service. These families earn less than $53,000 a year and have a child under 12. They must also reside in Encanto, Paradise Hills, San Ysidro, or National City – zip codes that suffer from high levels of poverty, food insecurity, and environmental health concerns.

Marshall used $500 a month to buy backpacks for his daughters as well as clothes, shoes, and food. The direct cash payments did not relieve all the financial stress in the family, but it certainly helped.

Kelvin Marshall is a participant in a new San Diego County Guaranteed Income Pilot Program. / Photo by Jesse Marks

“We don’t live beyond our means,” he said. “We just live where we’re meant to be.”

This non-punitive approach contrasts with the way public goods have traditionally been administered in the United States. But unlike a universal basic income — a widely recognized proposal offering to send checks to everyone regardless of demographics in the face of an increasingly automated workforce — guaranteed income programs target specific groups of people.

At the moment, this is primarily a research project, and whether it has been scaled up at the governmental level remains an open question. But it is currently expanding to include more communities.

The pilot began in March and is scheduled to run for two years. In addition to providing short-term financial support, it will add to a growing body of data released by the University of Pennsylvania on the health, education, and economic impacts of cash assistance programs as they become more common.

Income Movement, another nonprofit organization based in Portland, Oregon, has Count more than 80 Programs active in the United States or in the planning stages. Stockton is one of the Most well-known examples But the idea goes back decades. Since the 1980s, in fact, Alaska has distributed energy profits for its inhabitants.

Although the size and scope of the programs vary, their primary purpose is to make well-being – often invasive and degrading, at face value but questionable Fraud root removal name – More accessible.

Restrictions on welfare programs can also be administratively burdensome. Under federal rules, for example, SNAP recipients cannot purchase hot or ready-to-eat meals at grocery stores or restaurants. This is not the case for the homeless, disabled, or elderly recipients of CalFresh, but only if the money is spent on licensed work.

Advocates of guaranteed income try to get rid of it all by creating a distribution model based on trust and the belief that people in need know the best way to provide for their families.

scan for first three months From the San Diego Guaranteed Income Pilot Program shows that beneficiaries spent 41 percent of the money on food. Another 23 percent offsets retail costs, 20 percent is for transportation and 9 percent is on utilities and other household expenses. Nearly half of the recipients are Hispanic and more than a quarter are black. About two-thirds of women.

Sacramento lawmakers, including Senator Ben Hoeso, got the program with $1.4 million in the state budget. Two more are in the works.

Last week, the county board of supervisors set aside $7.5 million in federal stimulus money to start a second pilot project. Once contracts are signed, it will provide cash assistance to parents or guardians whose general neglect has been reported, meaning the child lacks basic things like food, clothing, and shelter. The child is often left unsupervised because the caregiver is at work.

Supervisor Terra Lawson-Remer told me there are clear moral and ethical reasons for keeping families together, but that by intervening early, the county will also prevent children from entering the foster care system and save DCS funds. In other words, the thinking goes, the county spends a little up front rather than a lot in the future to repair damage to a poor house.

Or, as she put it: “An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.”

A third pilot takes shape at Café X: By Any Beans Necessary. Known as the Black Women’s Resilience Project, it will test the importance of income as a social determinant in black families. By and large, people of color were excluded from America’s social democratic reforms in the twentieth century that helped today’s older white communities build generational wealth.

“Concentrating women, black women specifically, in the economy helps us build economic security,” said Gea Pollard, San Diego director for Every Child and co-owner/founder of the café.

Seed funding for this program comes from Alliance Healthcare, which sees a link between racial income gaps and health care in general, caused by stressful lives. studies I showedFor example, black and Indigenous women have significantly higher maternal and child mortality rates than their white counterparts. An approximate 10 percent increase in income during pregnancy resulted in low birth weight and preterm delivery.

Despite the link between financial support and childcare, a common question that Alliance Healthcare Foundation CEO Sarah Lehman said she hears from philanthropists is, “Wouldn’t this motivate people to work less?”

Evidence indicates otherwise. The recipients in Stockton kept working and used the extra money each month as a buffer to go back to school or Find better jobs. actually employment Increased by 12 percent.

Another common question Lehman said she asked, why isn’t the government fully funding the Guaranteed Income Program and what happens when it ends? To date, the pilots operating under the Jewish Family Service umbrella derive from a mixture of public and private sources, which is why the Catalyst of San Diego & Imperial County, a funders network, is organizing A tour of the various programs Last month. This is where I met Marshall and others, including representatives from philanthropic groups and governments.

But the most pressing problem facing guaranteed income backers is how payments are categorized by public agencies. California treats direct cash transfers as unearned income, which means they count toward the family’s total assets and can make the applicant ineligible for other benefits.

Melissa Perez, a full-time college student and mom, said she recently reapplied for CalWorks but the county deducted $500 — the amount of guaranteed monthly income payments — from her total benefit. She said officials were hostile when she appealed.

“I’m not trying to steal from anyone,” she said.

According to Director of Communications Michael Workman, the county has applied for a waiver through the state, so what happened to Perez won’t happen in the long run. In an email, he said recipients of guaranteed income should be aware of “potential unintended eligibility effects on public benefit programs.”

Aside from the bureaucratic hurdles, there are also political considerations. The average annual household income for participants in the first trial is about $30,000. Many of these people work in minimum wage jobs, and so it can be argued that cash payment does not fundamentally change their labor relationships – in fact, remittances allow non-living wage employers without a hitch.

I critiqued a few advocates I met on the tour and they all told me the same thing: Yes, there is tension with the labor movement and basic income programs in general, but you can provide cash assistance to – income people while also empowering them in the workplace. It is not either/or.

Stacey Rutland, founder and president of The Income Movement, points to research from Stockton showing that large numbers of people who received cash assistance moved from part-time work to full-time work. Some were doing informal work that is not easy to organize. Some bought a car and got a slightly better job. Others bought a beautiful suit for an interview.

“It’s just an opportunity to support a really wide range of community members who are navigating the realities of their lives,” she said. “It gives them the autonomy and freedom to cover the things they need.”

Similarly, Chris Olsen, Chief of Staff for the Jewish Family Service, told me that cash assistance and raising the minimum income through wages are worthy goals but separate from what they are trying to achieve here.

“Guaranteed income programs are happening now and they are fast and help those in need…by filling gaps in existing social safety net programs,” he said. “One does not negate the need for the other.”

Perez said food insecurity is a real problem in her home and she found the pilot while searching online for help after losing her job. At first, she only let a select group of close friends know about it and kept telling her how lucky she was to be chosen.

“How lucky am I?” responded. “I was hungry and had no food.”

Marshall got a different reaction.

He said his friends grieved him for always wanting something for nothing. He felt guilty at first, but the person who helped him with the app pointed out all the jobs he’s held over the past 32 years – cleaning floors and carpets, working in warehouses and construction sites.

“This is what I paid for,” the social worker recalled. “Now that you need it, you are entitled to come and see if you can have it.”

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