City of Compton Introduces Two-Year Guaranteed Income Pilot

Proponents of universal basic income and general income programs say direct cash payments to low-income residents would reduce inequality and alleviate poverty.

January 14, 2021, 9:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


athrasher / Cash

[Updated Jan. 14, 2021] With millions of people out of work, policymakers have started looking to Universal Basic Income (UBI) as a way to support working families and prevent more Americans from falling into poverty. In Compton, a new pilot program called the Compton Pledge will provide up to $1,000 per month to qualifying families for two years. If successful, the program could symbolize a powerful new weapon against poverty and inequality. With its means test, Compton Pledge is a "guaranteed income" program, rather than a "universal basic income" program. The latter provides payments to all citizens.

KCRW's Press Play with Madeleine Brand interviewed Compton Mayor Aja Brown about the program. "There's empirical data from other guaranteed income pilots across the nation over the last two years that really underscore that people are making the smart decisions and the best decisions for their family with this additional income,” she said, expressing optimism that the guaranteed income will help families where they need it most.

Compton program recipients will be chosen at random from a list of low-income residents, and the city hopes to expand the program in the future. "Guaranteed income is really about dignity," asserts Mayor Brown, who herself faced poverty as a child. "All people deserve to live a life free of terror from not having the basic necessities."

[Article updated to clarify that the program is a guaranteed income program, rather than a universal basic income.]

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