At last night’s meeting, the Long Beach City Council directed the city manager to begin securing funds for the city’s universal basic income pilot program.
“The COVID pandemic has highlighted more than ever why it’s necessary to explore these types of direct support for people,” Mayor Robert Garcia said. “The income inequality challenge becomes larger every year.”
The mayor is a member of the 15-city coalition Mayors for a Guaranteed Income, which is where the idea for a pilot originated.
“A guaranteed income is a monthly, cash payment given directly to individuals. It is unconditional, with no strings attached and no work requirements,” states the coalition website. “A guaranteed income is meant to supplement, rather than replace, the existing social safety net and can be a tool for racial and gender equity.”
Mayor Robert Garcia said that many private donors had already expressed interest in supporting the pilot program, particularly private foundations.
So far, there’s no concrete vision of what the pilot program will look like in Long Beach.
Garcia said that details like the model and scope of the program were still undecided, but that councilmembers would have an opportunity to shape the program to meet the needs of the City.
“I’m supportive of the concept,” Councilmember Rex Richardson said. “The concept fits well with a lot of the conversation and study we’ve done over the past few years in economic inclusion and addressing barriers.”
Councilmember Dee Andrews echoed his support, “Right now, low-income communities like mine are struggling in ways and levels we have never ever seen before.”
Some councilmembers wanted more information on the concept of guaranteed income. Councilmember Daryl Supernaw requested staff to create a supplemental overview that explains the process before moving on to community outreach.
The program will have an estimated cost of $100,000 to the city in staff time, as the mayor recommended hiring an economic equity specialist for the pilot. Additional costs are expected to be paid by private funding.
To start the process, the council will draft a resolution of support for the pilot program and direct the city manager to begin seeking and accepting funds. Any development of the pilot program will have to come to the council for approval.
The next Long Beach City Council meeting will take place on Tuesday, Sept. 8 via teleconference.