Compton is launching a landmark pilot project to guarantee income to 800 hundred residents, including those out of prison and illegal immigrants, the Compton Mayor announced Monday, USA Today reports.
The pilot program, called the Compton Pledge seeks to “challenge the racial and economic injustice plaguing both welfare programs and economic systems,” according to a statement from Mayor Aja Brown.
The project, set to start later this year, guarantees cash payments between $300 and $600 to a group of 800 “pre-verified” residents each month for two years and access to free banking services. The money is available for “irregularly or informally employed residents, immigrants of varied legal status, and the formerly incarcerated,” the statement reads.
“I know first and what guaranteed income could have done for my mother,” Brown said. “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.”
More than 20% of Compton’s 95,000 residents, who are predominantly Black and Hispanic, live in poverty according to the program.
Officials said the program’s effectiveness will be evaluated every six months. How they will do this remains unclear.
It’s the largest city-led guaranteed income program in the U.S. to date. The program has raised more than $2.5 million in private donations and organizers hope to raise a total of $8.1 million all from private sources. The mayor has partnered with dozens of community organizations, including the Jain Family Institute and the Fund for Guaranteed Income, a registered public charity launched to steward guaranteed income “as a path to racial justice.”
Compton is not the first city to experiment with the idea of a universal basic income, Stockton, California, in 2019 became the first U.S. city to put the plan into action by giving $500 debit cards every month to 125 residents who earn less than $46,000 annually. Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs and Brown are both part of a group of 25 mayors pushing for a national system of direct payments to vulnerable families.
“I look forward to seeing the data support what Mayor Brown already knows to be true of her constituents: poverty stems from a lack of cash, not a lack of character,” the Stockton Mayor said in a statement.
Patrisse Cullors, an advocate of the Compton Pledge and co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement, said in the release, “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.”