Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. Courtesy of the mayor’s office

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti on Monday proposed a pilot program to test “universal basic income,” with 2,000 low-income families being paid monthly and “no questions asked.”

The Mayor outlined the idea as part of a “justice budget” for America’s second largest city that also includes $1 billion to address homelessness.

“It’s a financial document, but also a roadmap to a city built on justice and equity … it’s the biggest city budget I’ve ever presented, and it’s the most progressive, too, arguably of any big city anywhere,” Garcetti said during his annual “State of the City” address.

His proposed budget for the fiscal year that begins on July 1 includes $24 million for the basic income test, which he said will be the largest of any U.S. city. The program will give $1,000 a month to 2,000 low- income families for a year “no questions asked,” Garcetti said.

“We’re betting that one small but steady investment for Angeleno households will pay large dividends for health and stability across our city and light a fire across our nation,” Garcetti said. “When you give money to people who are poor, it creates better outcomes, it covers child care, it puts food on the table, it leads to more high school graduations and better checkups.”

The guaranteed basic income idea was tested in Stockton in 2019 and received widespread national attention. Jewish Family Service of San Diego is leading a pilot program for low-income neighborhoods of San Diego and National City.

Garcetti also announced that he will create an advisory commission and speak with academic partners to facilitate the creation of a pilot slavery reparations program for Black Angelenos.

His budget also pledges an additional $300 million from the national American Rescue Plan toward LA’s Emergency Rental Assistance, bringing the total amount of direct assistance for rent, utilities and other basic needs during the COVID-19 pandemic to $700 million, Garcetti said.

“But the pandemic didn’t start our housing crisis, and our success in eliminating so much rent won’t end it,” he said before announcing that the budget will dedicate more than $950 million to the fight against homelessness.

“To put that number in perspective, when I became mayor, we spent about $10 million on treating homelessness,” Garcetti said.

He said the key to ending homelessness is renting, buying and building homes, and he called on the state to invest $16 billion over four years in California cities’ housing and services. He also called for the federal government to declare a “Right to Housing” policy and fully fund Section 8 vouchers to “help make homelessness a thing of the past.”

Garcetti’s proposal also commits funding to LA’s small businesses and street vendors, including through a $25 million program to give $5,000 checks to 5,000 businesses.

City News Service contributed to this article.

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.