The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is set to approve on Tuesday guaranteed taxpayer-funded income of up to $1,200 per month for certain low-income young adults, as more Democratic-led cities across the nation push for universal monthly aid without work requirements.
The money in the Los Angeles pilot program would go for three years to 150 people ages 18 to 24 who are receiving general relief benefits. Board chair and former U.S. Rep. Hilda Solis, a Democrat, said the aid would help people who have been hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic and have “historically faced economic and social inequities.’’
The plan was proposed just weeks after California lawmakers unanimously approved the first state-funded guaranteed income plan of $1,000 per month for eligible expectant mothers and young adults who recently left foster care. That $35 million initiative is also taxpayer-funded.
Similar programs have been announced in New Orleans; Oakland, California; Newark, New Jersey; Tacoma, Washington; and Gainesville, Florida.
The City Council in Durham, North Carolina, is expected to vote next week on a pilot program that would give some residents $500 per month for one year with no strings attached.
The pandemic has given liberal communities “a pretext for doing what they have always planned to do, which is to have a universal entitlement state that’s very generous,” said Robert Rector, a specialist on poverty and welfare programs at the conservative Heritage Foundation.
“We are really talking about a universal cash entitlement state popping up here and there,” Mr. Rector said. “These are some of the most momentous changes that have ever been discussed in U.S. society. Of course, taxpayers have to pay for all of this.”
Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger, a Republican, was the lone dissenting vote in May when the board initially discussed the plan. A part of her concern was the potential for fraud.
“We should be more diligent, thoughtful and strategic before we implement a program of this nature,” she said at the time.
Many of the communities pushing such proposals are coordinating with the group Mayors for a Guaranteed Income.
“Economic insecurity isn’t a new challenge or a partisan issue,” the group said on its website. “Wealth and income inequality, which have long plagued our country, continue to grow. Everyone deserves an income floor through a guaranteed income.”
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, a Democrat, said the pandemic made it “increasingly clear that the restrictions placed on many [government] resources prevent those who have the greatest need from accessing them.” The city provided more than 3,500 qualifying families with a one-time cash payment of $800.
“We have seen that when given the flexibility to make their own decisions about how to spend cash relief, folks are making decisions based on what the most urgent needs are for their families,” Mr. Kenney said.
Guaranteed payments, which have been debated for decades, received renewed attention during the Democratic presidential primary in 2020 as a signature proposal from liberal candidate Andrew Yang. He called for a “Freedom Dividend” of $1,000 per person per month. His long-shot candidacy failed, as did his bid for New York mayor this spring.
Polls generally show that Democrats support guaranteed income programs and Republicans do not.
A survey by the liberal think tank Data for Progress found that 75% of Democrats support the policy and 79% of Black voters support it.
But a Pew Research Center poll in August 2020 found that a majority of U.S. adults, 54%, said they would oppose a guaranteed federal income of about $1,000 per month for all adult citizens, whether or not they work. That poll found 45% of respondents in favor of the idea.
One study estimated that a universal guaranteed income from the federal government would cost taxpayers $3.9 trillion a year — nearly as much as Washington spends in one year on the entire federal budget.
The initiatives on guaranteed income in California are cropping up in the same month that the Biden administration is delivering enhanced child tax credit checks of roughly $3,000 per child to about 39 million families. Mr. Rector said the measures are “a complete reversal of welfare reform under President Clinton,” in which changes in aid were tied to work requirements.
“It’s moving in the direction of saying that everyone is entitled to a free education, free medical care, and free cash, food and housing equal to the poverty level,” he said. “And there’s no expectation that these individuals will be required to do anything to support themselves.”
In the Data for Progress survey, 56% of respondents said they support a permanent expansion of the child tax credit after the pandemic crisis ends.
Mr. Rector said other studies of efforts to provide guaranteed income have shown it “doesn’t decrease employment, but it doesn’t do anything positive, either.”
“Primarily, the people that get that [aid] are people that simply don’t work very much,” he said. “This is very much moving towards a ‘post-work’ society. That’s very much what the left is thinking about.”
About two dozen Democratic senators have urged President Biden to include recurring direct payments to Americans in his infrastructure plans, which would total more than $4 trillion even without such payments.
The city of Stockton, California, started a pilot income program in 2019, funded by a nonprofit, with payments of $500 a month to 125 randomly selected individuals in low-income neighborhoods. The recipients were allowed to spend the money however they wanted, and there were no work requirements.
Researchers Stacia Martin-West of the University of Tennessee and Amy Castro Baker of the University of Pennsylvania analyzed data from people who received the payments and from others who didn’t. Their findings indicated that the payments helped people deal with financial emergencies and that the guaranteed income did not discourage participants from working. The share of recipients with full-time jobs rose 12 percentage points, compared with an increase of 5 percentage points in the group that didn’t receive the payments.
About two dozen Democratic senators, including Budget Committee Chairman Bernard Sanders, Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, have urged Mr. Biden to include recurring direct payments to Americans in his infrastructure plans, which would total more than $4 trillion even without such payments.
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