On Monday, Compton Mayor Aja Brown announced the upcoming launch of a pilot program that will give regular, free payments to 800 of its lowest-income residents.
According to CNN, the Compton Pledge will launch later this year and provide a group of “pre-verified” residents with monthly payments over the course of two years. The exact amount hasn’t been decided, but the pledge is designed to “challenge the racial and economic injustice plaguing both welfare programs and economic systems.”
The group is still in the process of finalizing the decision process for who’s selected but aims to be completely transparent in the process once the core details are in place.
“People in our community are going through tough times, and I know that guaranteed income could give people a moment to navigate their situation, and have some breathing room to go back to school, explore a new career path, spend time with their children, or improve their mental and emotional wellbeing,” Brown said in her statement. Brown also talked about her own experiences growing up in a low-income home, and the sacrifices she watched her mother make.
“Like most Americans, we were one emergency away from having to move, which we did many times, if anything unplanned happened because of her restricted income and prioritizing being present for her children,” Brown said.
About 1 in 5 Compton residents live below the poverty line — a figure that is double the national average, according to Census.gov.
The coronavirus pandemic has also raised the city’s unemployment rate which now stands at 21.9%, according to the program’s website. Compton Pledge hopes to reverse these troubling trends at no cost to its residents.
So far, the program has raised over $2.5 million in private donations and in-kind contributions. This money will go to the Fund for Guaranteed Income,a registered public charity, with “the vast majority channeled directly to the cash transfer recipients,” according to program’s fact sheet.
The Compton Pledge is led by Mayor Brown in partnership with the Fund for Guaranteed Income, the Jain Family Institute — a nonprofit research institution — and dozens of other organizations that will advise on the implementation of the initiative into the community.
“I recognized that there’s a need for additional income, especially with the pandemic resulting in record-high numbers of unemployment throughout the entire country,” Brown told the Los Angeles Times. “This is a great opportunity to address inequalities for Black and brown people and also additional opportunities for upward mobility.”
In addition to the cash payments, the program will provide access to financial literacy services. The program will also host an online payment option that will allow recipients to receive their payments through direct deposit, electronic transfers, and prepaid debit cards.
The pledge will be accessible to a variety of Compton residents, including those “irregularly or informally employed residents, immigrants of varied legal status, and the formerly incarcerated.”
This is not the first guaranteed income program in California, as in 2019 Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs launched the “Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration,” the first program of its kind in the country. The program provided 125 Stockton residents with monthly $500 payments for 18 months.
Tubbs, along with Brown, created the organization “Mayors for Guaranteed Income,” which includes 23 other mayors who believe these kinds of programs should be pushed. Considering 8 million Americans have fallen below the poverty line as a result of the poorly-handled pandemic, I think there’s a large swath of citizens who are inclined to agree.