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California Cities are Pilot Testing Guaranteed Basic Income Programs

“The course of this pandemic has revealed the large number of County residents who are living on the brink of the financial crisis, with insufficient savings to weather a job loss, a medical emergency, or a major car repair. This guaranteed income program will help give residents the breathing room they need to better weather those crises,” said Supervisor Sheila Kuehl.

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These programs, including LA County’s Breathe program, are modeled after a universal basic income program that was tested in the city of Stockton. The Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration (SEED) provided $500 to 125 low-income residents for 24 months.
These programs, including LA County’s Breathe program, are modeled after a universal basic income program that was tested in the city of Stockton. The Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration (SEED) provided $500 to 125 low-income residents for 24 months.

Manny Otiko | California Black Media

Guaranteed basic income isn’t a new idea. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr talked about the idea of low-income people receiving regular checks from the government in the 1960s. It was brought up again during the 2020 presidential campaign when Democratic candidate Andrew Yang, a technology entrepreneur, made it a major part of his platform.

However, Yang was advocating for Universal Basic Income (UBI), which guarantees payments to everyone.

Guaranteed basic income only targets low-income people.

According to Yang, some kind of guaranteed basic income program is going to be necessary for the future when technology makes many jobs obsolete. A 2020 World Economic Forum study predicted that technologies such as artificial intelligence and robotics would eliminate 85 million jobs by 2025. However, guaranteed basic income programs are gaining steam across California as poverty alleviation. Several cities are carrying out pilot programs.

Los Angeles County is conducting a guaranteed basic income pilot program called Breathe. The program provides $1,000 to 1,000 LA County residents over a three-year period. The program will be evaluated by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Guaranteed Income Research.

Breathe is overseen by the county’s Poverty Alleviation Initiative. 180,000 residents applied to take part in the program. On a single day during the process, 95,000 people submitted applications, according to a county press release.

To qualify for Breathe funds, the applicants had to be at least 18 years old, have a single-person household income under $56,000 or $96,000 for a family of four, and have experienced negative impacts due to COVID-19.

One motivation behind the Breathe program was the COVID-19 pandemic, which laid bare the problems of poverty and income inequality.

“The course of this pandemic has revealed the large number of County residents who are living on the brink of the financial crisis, with insufficient savings to weather a job loss, a medical emergency, or a major car repair. This guaranteed income program will help give residents the breathing room they need to better weather those crises,” said Supervisor Sheila Kuehl.

Other guaranteed basic income programs are being pilot-tested in California.

Miracle Messages, an outreach program for the unhoused in San Francisco, started to pilot test a program called Miracle Money last year. Miracle Money provided $500 to homeless people. And the initial program seemed to be a success. According to Miracle Messages, about 50% of the people in the test group were able to find housing after they received the cash payments. Miracle Money was funded by a GoFundMe campaign.

Oakland Resilient Families is a Bay Area program that provides a $500 grant to families for 18 months. The program stresses it is different from universal basic income. “Guaranteed income is meant to provide an income floor but not meant to be a replacement for wages. Guaranteed income can also be targeted to those who need it most,” according to the organization’s website. Oakland Resilient Families is funded by donations.

Mountain View, another Bay Area city is setting up a new guaranteed basic income pilot program called Elevate MV. The pilot program promises to give, for two years, $500 a month to 166 low-income families with at least one child or who are currently pregnant. Elevate MV is operated through the Community Services Agency, a non-profit organization.

In San Diego County a guaranteed income pilot program was launched in March 2020. One hundred and fifty households with young children residing in one of the four priority ZIP codes in the county — Encanto, Paradise Hills, National City and San Ysidro — are receiving $500 a month for two years. The $2.9 million program is run by Jewish Family Service of San Diego with funding from Alliance Healthcare Foundation and from the state’s budget surplus.

These programs, including LA County’s Breathe program, are modeled after a universal basic income program that was tested in the city of Stockton. The Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration (SEED) provided $500 to 125 low-income residents for 24 months.

The research showed that the SEED program worked, according to a National Public Radio (NPR) article.

“Among the key findings outlined in a 25-page white paper are that the unconditional cash reduced the month-to-month income fluctuations that households face, increased recipients’ full-time employment by 12 percentage points, and decreased their measurable feelings of anxiety and depression, compared with their control-group counterparts,” said NPR.

Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs launched the SEED program in 2019. Following the promising results of the pilot program, in 2020 Tubbs launched Mayors for Guaranteed Income, a coalition of 60 mayors who are advocating for a guaranteed income program to ensure that all Americans have an income floor.

Tubbs lost his bid for re-election in 2020 and is now an adviser to Gov. Gavin Newsom who is a proponent of guaranteed income.

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Community Celebrates Historic Oakland Billboard Agreements

We, the Oakland Billboard Economic Development Coalition, which includes Oakland’s six leading community health clinics, all ethnic chambers of commerce, and top community-based economic development organizations – celebrate the historic billboard agreements approved last year by the Oakland City Council. We have fought for this opportunity against the billboard monopoly, against Clear Channel, for five years. The agreements approved by Council set the bar for community benefits – nearly $70 Million over their lifetime, more than 23 times the total paid by all previous Clear Channel relocation agreements in Oakland combined.

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The Oakland Billboard Economic Development Coalition.
The Oakland Billboard Economic Development Coalition.

Grand Jury Report Incorrect – Council & Community Benefit

We, the Oakland Billboard Economic Development Coalition, which includes Oakland’s six leading community health clinics, all ethnic chambers of commerce, and top community-based economic development organizations – celebrate the historic billboard agreements approved last year by the Oakland City Council. We have fought for this opportunity against the billboard monopoly, against Clear Channel, for five years. The agreements approved by Council set the bar for community benefits – nearly $70 Million over their lifetime, more than 23 times the total paid by all previous Clear Channel relocation agreements in Oakland combined.

Unfortunately, a recent flawed Grand Jury report got it wrong, so we feel compelled to correct the record:

  1. Regarding the claim that the decision was made hastily, the report itself belies that claim. The process was five years in the making, with two and a half years from the first City Council hearing to the final vote. Along the way, as the report describes, there were multiple Planning Commission hearings, public stakeholder outreach meetings, a Council Committee meeting, and then a vote by the full Council. Not only was this not hasty, it had far more scrutiny than any of the previous relocation agreements approved by the City with Clear Channel, all of which provide 1/23 of the benefits of the Becker/OFI agreements approved by the Council.
  2. More importantly, the agreements will actually bring millions to the City and community, nearly $70M to be exact, 23 times the previous Clear Channel relocation agreements combined. They certainly will not cost the city money, especially since nothing would have been on the table at all if our Coalition had not been fighting for it. Right before the decisive City Council Committee hearing, in the final weeks before the full Council vote, there was a hastily submitted last-minute “proposal” by Clear Channel that was debunked as based on non-legal and non-economically viable sites, and relying entirely on the endorsement of a consultant that boasts Clear Channel as their biggest client and whose decisions map to Clear Channel’s monopolistic interests all over the country. Some City staff believed these unrealistic numbers based on false premises, and, since they only interviewed City staff, the Grand Jury report reiterated this misinformation, but it was just part of Clear Channel’s tried and true monopolistic practices of seeking to derail agreements that actually set the new standard for billboard community benefits. Furthermore, our proposals are not mutually exclusive – if Clear Channel’s proposal was real, why had they not brought it forward previously? Why have they not brought it forward since? Because it was not a real proposal – it was nothing but smoke and mirrors, as the Clear Channel’s former Vice President stated publicly at Council.

Speaking on behalf of the community health clinics that are the primary beneficiaries of the billboard funding, La Clinica de la Raza CEO Jane Garcia, states: “In this case, the City Council did the right thing – listening to the community that fought for five years to create this opportunity that is offering the City and community more than twenty times what previous billboard relocation agreements have offered.”

 

Oakland Billboard Economic Development Coalition

Native American Health Center La Clínica de la Raza West Oakland Health Center
Asian Health Services Oakland LGBTQ Center Roots Community Health Center
The Unity Council Black Cultural Zone Visit Oakland
Oakland African American Chamber of Commerce Oakland Chinatown Chamber of Commerce Oakland Vietnamese Chamber of Commerce
Oakland Latino Chamber of Commerce Building Trades of Alameda County (partial list)
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Grocery Inflation Causes Food Banks to be the Default for Families in Oakland

Steve Morris, Director of Natural Resources and Environment at GAO, explained that while the pandemic certainly had an effect on food increases, there is not one single factor for a rise in food prices. He said events like the Ukraine-Russian war, the avian influenza epidemic that raised the price of eggs, and climate change are also key factors.

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Photo: iStock image.
Photo: iStock image.

By Magaly Muñoz

During the past three years, the US has seen the largest increase in food prices since the 1980s. In response to this crisis, community food banks have emerged to provide much-needed assistance to families in need.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) reports that national food prices have increased 11% from 2021 to 2022, when the average yearly increase was previously 2%. The San Francisco Bay Area saw a 12% increase from 2021 to 2022.

Steve Morris, Director of Natural Resources and Environment at GAO, explained that while the pandemic certainly had an effect on food increases, there is not one single factor for a rise in food prices. He said events like the Ukraine-Russian war, the avian influenza epidemic that raised the price of eggs, and climate change are also key factors.

While still maintaining that elevated prices will persist for the foreseeable future, Morris anticipates a decrease of 8% in food price increases.

He also stated that while the average person may spend 10% of their income on groceries, a low-income family may spend 30%, making the inflation in food prices that much harsher.

“Higher food prices can put people in a position where they have to make some tough choices between ‘can they go to the grocery store and buy food’ or ‘do they have to spend it on other necessities like home or health care or other things,’” Morris said.

Michael Altfest is the Director of Community Engagement and Marketing for Alameda County (AC) Food Bank, the primary food distributor in the county with over 400 community partners that receive frequent donations.

Altfest shared that from 2019 to 2023, the number of pounds of food distributed to their community partners has doubled. In 2019, the food bank distributed 32.5 million pounds of food, while in 2021 during the height of the pandemic, they distributed 58.1 million pounds. This year they are on pace to distribute almost 60 million pounds of food.

“If we’re on pace this year to provide more than we did in the pandemic, I think that says a lot about what the state of hunger is right now,” Altfest said.

During the height of the pandemic, state and federal government relief programs helped families offset significant expenses like groceries. These programs included the child tax credit increase that put anywhere from $2,000 up to $3,600 back into qualifying families pockets when filing their yearly taxes.

Another program that directly targeted food insecurity, was the increase in funds for SNAP or CalFresh. These government programs provide food-purchasing assistance for low- and no-income people to help them maintain adequate nutrition and health. But earlier this spring, funding was cut from the state program CalFresh and families saw at least a $95 decrease in their assistance.

“Every single person talks about the cost of living in Alameda County, every single person. The cost of rent, the cost of food, those are things that come up every single time without fail,” Altfest shared.

One of AC Food Bank’s community partners is Homies Empowerment, a non-profit in Oakland that was established as a means to support youth and the community through a positive lens.

Selena Duarte, the FREEdom Store Coordinator, said the organization’s initiative to help families with food provision began in May of 2020 when their original store was filled only with books and students told them that while it was nice to have things to read, “they can’t eat books,” showing the team at Homies Empowerment that there were bigger needs in the community that they had to address.

Since then, the organization has expanded its services. They now provide groceries every Tuesday, have established the FREEdom Farm where they grow produce that gets distributed in their make-shift store, offer hot breakfast to 40 students and their families five days a week, and much more.

Duarte said that they serve almost 400 families a week and they are continuing to expand their food services due to the increasing number of people coming to them seeking help to reduce their spending on groceries. She recognized that although people say that the “pandemic is over”, she knows that the stress that families are experiencing is still very real.

“The next phase is really becoming a sustainable community food hub, where literally we can grow, share, cook, and store our food here in the community and for the community,” Duarte said.

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Oakland Post: Week of July 10 – 16, 2024

The printed Weekly Edition of the Oakland Post: Week of July 10 – 16, 2024

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