LA County has announced a March 31 enrollment date for its groundbreaking Guaranteed Income Program, the largest of its kind in the nation. The program will award 1,000 randomly selected qualifying residents $1,000 a month for three years.

It’s no secret that LA County has a great disparity in the income levels of its residents. While the region generates a lot of revenue for the California economy, which is the fifth largest economy in the world, a disproportionate number of our residents live in poverty, most especially our communities of color. The COVID-19 pandemic further highlighted the various ways in which race and geography affect health and economic outcomes.

Spurred by a motion co-authored by Supervisor Sheila Kuehl and Supervisor Holly Mitchell, Breathe: LA County’s Guaranteed Income Program is aimed at addressing these inequities for 1,000 residents in targeted low-income communities—giving them a little financial space to breathe. The program will provide $36 million in direct payments to participants over the three-year duration, without conditions, allowing participants to spend the funds as they see fit.

Guaranteed income presents a huge opportunity to close an ever-widening income gap and begin to put an end to inter-generational poverty. Similar programs implemented across the nation have yielded promising results. Overwhelmingly, people participating in these programs spent the money on basic needs, including food, merchandise, utilities, and auto costs, and, given help to tide them over life’s low points, experienced an increasing ability to seek and gain employment and decreasing feelings of anxiety and depression. The County is partnering with the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Guaranteed Income Research to design and implement its program. Over the three-year period, both entities will monitor outcomes and glean critical data to inform future policy decisions.

“The course of this pandemic has revealed the large number of County residents who are living on the brink of 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. There is ample evidence from guaranteed income projects around the country that financial support, coupled with the freedom to make one’s own decisions about how best to spend the money, offers families the flexibility they need to establish stability and to invest in a more prosperous future for themselves,“ said Supervisor Sheila Kuehl.

To learn more about LA County’s Guaranteed Income Program, including eligibility information, visit breathe.lacounty.gov.