Last month, the LA County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a Universal Basic Income (UBI) plan to provide $1,200 a month to 150 people ages 18-24 who are already receiving general relief benefits.
The initiative aims to help those most at risk, including youth transitioning out of the foster care system.
Tiffany Boyd is an emancipated foster youth who sits on the LA County Commission for Children and Families. She’s a longtime advocate for foster youth and says this new UBI plan is geared toward those who can’t seek help elsewhere.
“To be able to say, ‘Hey mom, hey dad, I just need a gap filler or I need to get through this crisis and pandemic … whatever some of those issues are, the unfortunate side of coming through the system is that you are through that process, disconnected from your family oftentimes and the resources that come with that,” Boyd explains.
The details and kinks of the program are being worked out, according to Boyd. The initial motion is in collaboration with the General Relief (GR) program, a county-funded initiative that provides cash aid to adults and some children without income or resources. Through the new UBI motion, Boyd says the GR can begin to focus on the most vulnerable within the Transition Age Youth (TAY) population (ages 18-24).
More than 150 young adults are eligible for these checks.
Jackie Robles, 22, is one of those individuals. She recently aged out of foster care and sits on the LA County Youth Commission. Robles is currently in school for her master’s degree and doesn’t have much time to work. So if selected for the UBI program, she says she’ll use the money to pay her rent and other living expenses, so she can focus more on school.
Robles says she was emancipated last year during the pandemic, right as she was graduating college. She lived in a transitional housing program, but her funding stopped when she turned 21, and she started facing homelessness. She echoes Boyd’s sentiments, agreeing that “a guaranteed income definitely allows you to relieve that financial burden that foster youth often face with lack of family support, that my peers may have that I wouldn’t.”
She thinks the program should likewise provide “some kind of financial literacy so these people that do get chosen don't just take their $1,200 and go spend it on In-N-Out. They can use it on what they need most.”
In response to critics who argue the UBI funds should go toward infrastructure for the county, Boyd agrees. But she also encourages them to consider where these young individuals end up otherwise.
“As [the UBI plan] is spelled out right now, it would be foster youth and single mothers 18-24 years old. Those are two of the most vulnerable populations among us,” Boyd says. “I think taking responsibility for the populations that we as a society have created, to step into someone's home and say, ‘Hey, the way you're raising your child is not up to par, we’re going to put them into the system, and we’re going to do a better job.’ The system took a sense of responsibility for those young people that I don’t think should cut off at 18 or 21.”