Compton rolls out largest 2-year guaranteed income program amid racial injustice reckoning

Patrisse Cullors, co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement, voiced her support for the program

Hundreds of people living in the California city of Compton, including those out of prison and illegal immigrants, will be eligible to receive guaranteed income as part of a new pilot program over the next two years.

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Compton Mayor Aja Brown announced Monday that The Compton Pledge, a landmark guaranteed income initiative, will distribute recurring, direct cash relief to approximately 800 low-income residents for two years, starting in late 2020.

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It’s the largest city-led guaranteed income program in the U.S. to date and comes amid a nationwide reckoning on racial injustice and inequality. According to the city, all funds are being raised privately in partnership with the Jain Family Institute, an applied research group, and the Fund for Guaranteed Income, a registered public charity launched to steward guaranteed income as a path to racial justice.

Those who were formally incarcerated, as well as illegal immigrants, are eligible for the program and may receive regular cash payments worth at least hundreds of dollars.

Patrisse Cullors, an advocate of the Compton Pledge and co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement, said, “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.”

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Brown said her own household growing up could have benefited from a guaranteed income program, as her mother was forced to move around frequently if unplanned expenses or emergencies arose.

“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,” Brown said in a statement. “Ensuring all people are able to live with dignity is something we should all strive for in America.”

Under the program, a pre-verified group of low-income residents will be notified of their selection and begin receiving cash transfers shortly thereafter. Recipients will be able to choose between multiple payment options to best suit their needs. The city said the situation in Compton “acutely faces many of the issues that have defined a national conversation about racial injustice and structural inequality.”

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Out of the city’s some 95,000 residents, about 30% are Black and 68% are Latino. About one in five residents live in poverty, which is double the nationwide average. Unemployment has risen by 21.9% since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, and a growing number of residents regularly rely on food pantries.

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