Los Angeles kicked off a new initiative Wednesday morning that will provide thousands of dollars in cash and help thousands residents in need and affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Basic Income Guaranteed: Los Angeles Economic Assistance Pilot," or BIG: LEAP, is a new program totaling nearly $40 million, set to begin later in October and benefit around 3,000 Angelenos.
Those 3,000 to 3,200 residents will receive $1,000 monthly, direct cash payments for 12 months, no strings attached.
The initiative makes Los Angeles the largest city in the United States to launch a basic income program.
While similar programs have been launched in other cities, BIG: LEAP is different because there are no limitations or restrictions on how recipients spend the money.
Eligibility to receive funds is based on a few different factors. Applicants to the program must:
- Live in the City of Los Angeles,
- Be at least 18 years old,
- Have at least one dependent child OR be pregnant,
- Have experienced a medical or economic hardship related to COVID-19, and
- Have an income level at or below the federal poverty line.
For a family of four, that poverty line falls at an annual income of $26,500.
The 3,000 Los Angeles families the program provides for will be randomly chosen from the applications submitted to receive the funds.
City Councilman Curren Price is spearheading the initiative. More than 12% of the people living in his district, District 9, are living in poverty.
The pandemic shed light on racial disparities in Los Angeles, Price explained ahead of the vote on the program.
"Sadly, this pandemic has only exacerbated the racial wealth gap," he said at the kickoff event for the program on Wednesday. "And it's laid bare a mountain of inequities that impact us all."
BIG: LEAP is aimed at helping people most in need.
"Poverty affects two out of every 10 residents in the City of Los Angeles — most of them people of color," the website for the program says. "Thirty-one percent are children. One-third of working adults in Los Angeles aren’t able to support their families with full-time work alone."
At the kickoff event Wednesday, LA City leaders called the program a path to breaking the cycle of poverty.
"We're looking to help, first and foremost, people to break out of poverty," Mayor Eric Garcetti said.
"And because the majority of Angelenos who live below the poverty line are Angelenos of color, we see guaranteed basic income as a means of building a stronger social safety net, and as an instrument of racial equality."