California's Compton Rolls Out Basic Income Program - Should Other States Follow Suit?

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The California city of Compton will launch a guaranteed income program for its low-income residents, including illegal immigrants and formerly incarcerated people, Mayor Aja Brown said.

Compton is rolling out a pilot program called the Compton Pledge to distribute recurring cash payments from USD 300 to USD 600 to nearly pre-verified 800 residents over two years starting in late 2020.

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

It is said to be the most extensive city-led guaranteed income program nationwide. According to the city officials, all funds are being raised privately in cooperation with Jain Family Institute, a nonprofit applied research group, and the Fund for Guaranteed Income, a public charity aiming to fight racial justice.

So far, the program has raised over USD 2.5 million in private donations, according to its factsheet. The money will go to the Fund for Guaranteed Income to distribute them among recipients.

Beneficiaries will be kept anonymous and will be evaluated by an independent research team every six months. Recipients will be able to choose among different payment options. Those without bank accounts will be provided with financial services at no cost.

About 30% of the city's 95,000 residents are Black, and 68% are Latino. About one in five residents live in poverty, which is double the national average. Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the local unemployment levels skyrocketed to 21.9%. An increasing number of residents rely on food pantries.

Patrisse Cullors, the co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement, voiced her support for Compton's program: '' The guaranteed income is an urgent and necessary strategy for addressing the economic realities of racial injustice,'' Cullors said.

The universal basic income program is not new to the Golden State. In 2019, the California city of Stockton rolled out the ''Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration'' (SEEDS) to give 125 residents USD 500 a month for 18 months. 

In June this year, the Economic Security Project, a group financing guaranteed income projects, established Mayors for Guaranteed Income, a consortium of 25 mayors, including Brown, advocating for this kind of initiative. 

Los Angeles and Long Beach are also among California's cities exploring their own pilot programs. The concept for universal basic income was the basis of tech entrepreneur Andrew Yang's presidential run. 

What do you think? Shall other cities follow suit and roll out universal basic income programs?