If there were ever a time to expand the social safety net, this is probably it. Millions of people are out of work due to the pandemic. Unemployment benefits are running out. Eviction protections are in danger of expiring. 2021 could become the year of Universal Basic Income (UBI). Nearly a dozen programs that provide cash payments directly to citizens will be in effect around the country this year.
In Compton, a pilot program started in December that will eventually provide up to $1,000 per month to hundreds of families for two years.
“Guaranteed income is really about dignity, and that regardless of circumstances, that all people deserve to live a life free of terror from not having the basic necessities,” says Compton Mayor Aja Brown.
The recipients will be randomly chosen from a list of low-income residents that includes undocumented people and those formerly incarcerated.
Brown doesn’t worry about critics who argue guaranteed income encourages people not to work, and says she knows firsthand that people who live in poverty try to make the best decisions they can with limited resources. She and her twin brother were raised by a single mother.
“We were literally one disaster away from being displaced or having to navigate the insecurity economically,” Brown says. “There's empirical data from other guaranteed income pilots across the nation over the last two years that really underscore that people are making the smart decisions and the best decisions for their family with this additional income.”