California Lawmakers Approve First State-Funded Guaranteed Income Plan in Nation’s History

California lawmakers on Thursday approved the nation’s first state-funded guaranteed income plan that would distribute $35 million in monthly cash payments to eligible pregnant people and young adults who recently left foster care.

The taxpayer-funded plan was approved unanimously in both chambers—36–0 in the Senate and 64–0 in the Assembly—and now heads to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk to be signed into law.

There will be no restrictions on how eligible individuals spend the money. The plan aims to help recipients transition to life on their own.

“If you look at the stats for our foster youth, they are devastating,” Senate Republican Leader Scott Wilk said in a statement. “We should be doing all we can to lift these young people up.”

Local governments and organizations will apply for the money and run their programs. The state Department of Social Services will decide who gets funding. California lawmakers left it up to local officials to determine the size of the monthly payments, which generally range from $500 to $1,000 in existing programs around the country.

Guaranteed income programs date back to the 18th century. The U.S. government even experimented with them in the 1960s and 1970s during the Nixon administration before they fell out of favor.

But recently, guaranteed income programs have been making a comeback. Programs have been announced in New Orleans; Oakland, California; Tacoma, Washington; Gainesville, Florida; and Los Angeles—the nation’s second-largest city, which has a plan to give $1,000 a month to 2,000 needy families.

Critics of such plans, such as Republican Assemblyman Vince Fong of Bakersfield, argue that they could “undermine incentives to work and increase dependence on government.”

“We should be pushing policies that encourage the value of work,” said Fong, who abstained from Thursday’s vote. “Guaranteed income doesn’t provide the job training and skills needed for upward mobility.”

Approval of the plan comes just days after the Democratic governor signed a $100 billion “Comeback Plan” budget package that includes tax relief and stimulus checks to help state residents recover from the pandemic and resulting lockdowns.

Newsom, who faces a recall election on Sept. 14, called SB 139 the largest recovery plan in the nation.

It provides immediate cash relief to middle-class families and businesses hit hardest by the pandemic and lockdowns, creating the biggest state tax rebate in U.S. history and the largest small-business relief package in the nation, Newsom’s office said in a statement.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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