Poverty and inequality are at the forefront of adverse issues our state faces, with nearly 6 million Californians living below the federal poverty level. Within the City of Stockton, nearly one in four live below the federal poverty line. It was clear that in Stockton—like in so many other cities across California—the status quo wasn’t working. In an effort to radically address these problems, the Office of then-Mayor Michael Tubbs launched the nation’s first mayor-led guaranteed income (GI) initiative, in collaboration with the Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration (SEED), the City of Stockton, the Reinvent Stockton Foundation (RSF), and the Economic Security Project (ESP).
This first-in-the-nation GI initiative launched in February of 2019 directly gave 125 Stockton residents a guaranteed income of $500/month for 24 months. This income—given to participants in the form of a prepaid debit card issued in the participant’s name—was unconditional, meaning there are no strings attached and no work prerequisites.
- Guaranteed income reduces income volatility or the month-to-month income fluctuations that households face.
- Unconditional cash enabled recipients to find full-time employment.
- Recipients of guaranteed income were healthier, showing less depression and anxiety and improved wellbeing.
- The guaranteed income alleviated financial scarcity creating new opportunities for self-determination, choice, goal-setting, and risk-taking
This GI initiative proved that direct cash assistance could fundamentally improve the lives of so many Californians by giving households the financial safety net to improve their economic and emotional wellbeing. The initiative also paved the way for Mayors for a Guaranteed Income, a national network established for mayors advocating for guaranteed income. Since June of 2020, Mayors for a Guaranteed Income has partnered with 9 cities across California, including Los Angeles and San Francisco, to establish their own pilot guaranteed income programs. This past summer, California approved the first state-funded effort and is allocating $35 million for additional pilots across the state thanks, in part, to the early efforts of SEED and its partners.