A California city is guaranteeing income to 800 residents for two years

Compton Pilot Program
Photo provided by CNN.

The city of Compton is launching a pilot program that will guarantee free, recurring cash payments to 800 of its low-income residents — with no strings attached.

The launch of the Compton Pledge, a guaranteed income program that seeks to “challenge the racial and economic injustice plaguing both welfare programs and economic systems,” was announced by Mayor Aja Brown in a statement released Monday.

The program is slated to begin later this year with a select group of “pre-verified” residents who will receive monthly cash payments ranging from $300 to $600 over a two-year period. It will also be available to “irregularly or informally employed residents, immigrants of varied legal status, and the formerly incarcerated.”

“People in our community are going through tough times, and I know that guaranteed income could give people a moment to navigate their situation, and have some breathing room to go back to school, explore a new career path, spend time with their children, or improve their mental and emotional wellbeing,” said Brown in the statement. “Ensuring all people are able to live with dignity is something we should all strive for in America.”

One of the features of Compton Pledge is its online payment platform which allows recipients to get their money through direct deposit, electronic transfers, or even prepaid debit cards.

In addition, the platform also provides no-cost banking and access to “existing financial, legal, and counseling services.”

A beacon of hope

About 1 in 5 Compton residents live below the poverty line — a figure that is double the national average, according to Census.gov.

The coronavirus pandemic has also raised the city’s unemployment rate which now stands at 21.9%, according to the program’s website. Compton Pledge hopes to reverse these troubling trends at no cost to its residents.

So far, the program has raised over $2.5 million in private donations and in-kind contributions. This money will go to the Fund for Guaranteed Income,a registered public charity, with “the vast majority channeled directly to the cash transfer recipients,” according to program’s fact sheet.

The Compton Pledge is led by Mayor Brown in partnership with the Fund for Guaranteed Income, the Jain Family Institute — a nonprofit research institution — and dozens of other organizations that will advise on the implementation of the initiative into the community.

Not the first guaranteed income pilot program in California

The program, which bills itself as the “largest and longest-term guaranteed income initiative,” is not the first of its kind in the state of California.

In 2019, Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs launched the “Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration” (SEEDS) , the first guaranteed income program in the country. SEEDS gave 125 Stockton residents $500 a month for 18 months.

And in June of this year, Tubbs and the Economic Security Project — a group that funds guaranteed income projects — created Mayors for Guaranteed Income, a consortium of 25 mayors, including Brown, who are pushing for these kinds of pilot programs.

The Compton Pledge has garnered praise from many advocates, most notably from Patrisse Cullors, one of the co-founders of the Black Lives Matter movement.

“Guaranteed income is an urgent and necessary strategy for addressing the economic realities of racial injustice. I’m thrilled Mayor Brown and Compton are leading the way in this growing national movement,” she said in a statement.