Breathe: LA County’s Guaranteed Income Program Has Officially Begun

Pilot Program Gives 1,000 Selected Residents Guaranteed Monthly Income

By Dolores Quintana

Los Angeles has taken a major step forward and launched Breathe: LA County’s Guaranteed Income Program which is part of LA County’s Poverty Alleviation Initiative. 1,000 participants were selected and will receive a $ 1,000 stipend every month for the next three years. Residents from 18 to 91 from all over the county who speak Armenian, Cantonese, Farsi, Korean, Mandarin, Spanish and English are all taking part in the pilot program. 

Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chair Holly J. Mitchell, said via a press release, “I look forward to the lessons learned on how public investments like this — that trust our constituents — are able to keep more residents housed or better positioned to invest in their future. It is my hope that LA County’s landmark guaranteed income program and commitment to poverty alleviation will help transform the delivery of government services in addressing the pressing needs of our communities. 

Over 180,000 LA County residents applied and The University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Guaranteed Income randomly selected the 1,000 pilot recipients. The Center will be using this opportunity to research guaranteed income programs across the country and will study the Breathe program’s impact on LA County’s participants. Strength Based Community Change (SBCC), the program administrator, was responsible for onboarding the 1,000 recipients of the Breathe program.

Supervisor Sheila Kuehl said, via a press statement, “Given the huge number of LA County residents who applied, it’s abundantly clear that a guaranteed basic income is an idea whose time has come. I’m confident that we will see what other pilots have already shown: that a guaranteed basic income, by giving people a bit of financial breathing room, allows them to stabilize their lives and that of their family. Three years from now, I feel confident that this LA County program will be seen as a foundation stone that led to expanded programs providing economic opportunity and stability to every eligible American household.”

The  $1,000 a month will be distributed via debit card for three years as part of Breathe: LA County’s Guaranteed Income Program. The program intends to address poverty and income instability. It is one of the largest and longest-running programs of its kind.

LA County Chief Executive Officer Fesia Davenport said, via a press statement, “Los Angeles County serves as a critical safety net for our community members and with Breathe, we are directly investing in the success of 1,000 of our fellow residents. LA County’s groundbreaking guaranteed income program will lead to concrete research about how we can best serve our communities and address some of the most pressing challenges facing our residents—including generational poverty, financial and housing instability, and inequality.”

SBCC has reached out to the 1,000 residents and heard their first-hand stories about the expected life-changing impacts the income has had on the participants and their families. Selected participants will be contacted throughout the program by SBCC who will assist them throughout the program to try and help them reach their personal and financial goals and improve the quality of life for their families and themselves.

SBCC Executive Director Colleen Mooney, said, via a press statement, “SBCC understood the impact that a program like this could have in our community and did not take this lightly. SBCC’s connections and partnerships with other grassroots organizations allowed us to bridge the gap between residents and the opportunity to apply for the Breathe program because of our strong ties to our communities. We are grateful that these partnerships made the enrollment and onboarding process more welcoming and accessible to many different communities and residents across Los Angeles County.”

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors announced the official launch of Breathe: LA County’s Guaranteed Income Program on March 31, 2022. It is a part of the County’s Poverty Alleviation Initiative. The program is government funded but significant additional funding is being provided by philanthropic organizations, including the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, First 5 LA, The California Endowment, The California Wellness Foundation, The James Irvine Foundation, The Kresge Foundation, and the Weingart Foundation.

On the very first day, over 95,000 Los Angeles County residents signed up for The Breathe program. By April 13, the day enrollment closed, over 180,000 applications were submitted. A research team from the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Guaranteed Income winnowed out the duplicate and ineligible applications and randomly selected 1,000 LA County residents to participate.

The big difference with Breathe: LA County’s Guaranteed Income Program and other aid programs because recipients have total control over how they spend their money. Residents  have the financial flexibility to allocate their finances as needed without bureaucratic bottlenecks or restrictions. 

The Board of Supervisors and Los Angeles County have committed to addressing systemic issues of income inequality. They hope to do this by providing tools to help move County residents out of poverty. The ongoing study and data gathered from recipients will be pivotal in fighting poverty, now and over the long term.

Other resources available through LA County include:

  • Stay Housed L.A, which offers information on tenants’ rights, free legal assistance, short-term rental assistance, and referrals to supportive services
  • Youth@Work Elevate program, which offers youth ages 17 – 24 paid internships while gaining work experience, training, and mentoring
  • Careers for a Cause provides an 8-week program offering training, stipends, individual support, and job placement services for individuals with lived homelessness or justice system experience

For a full list of resources visit breathe.lacounty.gov.

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