OAKLAND, Calif. - California lawmakers approved the first state-funded guaranteed income plan in the nation Thursday, aimed at providing monthly cash payments to low-income young adults who've recently left foster care and pregnant people out of poverty.
The bill had bipartisan support, passing in the State Senate 36-0 and passing in the Assembly 64-0.
"The state of California has made history allocating $35 million from the state budget to go to direct cash payments. We're seeing payment in the ranges between $500 and $1,000 going to recipients," said Assemblyman Evan Low, a Democrat from Cupertino who introduced the bill.
The pilot program will direct funds to local cities, counties, and organizations to distribute the payments.
"This program is still being fleshed out, but there are no restrictions, no strings attached to the direct payments and we're hopeful to build off of this and see how we can modify it to increase the pool of applicants and those who can qualify," said Assem. Low.
Noel Anaya of Oakland says he was in foster care from age one to 21, when he aged out. He said he thinks the guaranteed income is a good idea and could have helped him when he left the foster care system. Like many of California's foster youth, he was on his own to cover basic necessities as well as unexpected setbacks, such as the time when someone robbed him.
"Because I didn't have any money or any cushion, I had to stop going to school for a time and get another job for a time," said Anaya, now a YR Media Producer and student at Laney College, "I would have loved to be in school full-time but I didn't have that privilege."
Advocates for foster care youth say the need is great. Erika Dirske is program director for SFCASA which helps foster youth in San Francisco.
"We have so many young people exiting care. I mean across the state there are about 2,500 every year," said Dirske, "It doesn't take away from the other support benefits that they're eligible for but it really lifts up agency and choice for them after they've survived."
There was one Republican Assemblyman Vince Fong of Bakersfield who abstained, saying the money should go toward job training programs instead of cash.
Now, lawmakers will work on establishing the criteria for who can qualify for the guaranteed income funds. Assemblyman Low says payments could begin by next year.
Jana Katsuyama is a reporter for KTVU. Email Jana at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @JanaKTVU or Facebook @NewsJana or ktvu.com.