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Compton Launches Largest Universal Basic Income Program In The Nation

COMPTON (CBSLA) — Compton is launching the nation's largest universal basic income program, with plans to distribute regular cash payments to about 800 low-income residents for two years.

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(credit: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The Compton Pledge, which will be launched by the end of this year, will distribute cash relief to a pre-verified group of low-income Compton residents. Recipients will be kept anonymous and the program will be "rigorously evaluated" by an independent research team, who will report preliminary findings at six-month intervals.

Recipients will get to choose between multiple payment options, and residents who don't have a current bank account will be provided with no-cost financial services, according to Compton city officials.

"I know firsthand what guaranteed income could have done for my mother. I've watched the many sacrifices she made, including walking to work to provide for my brother and I," Compton Mayor Aja Brown said in a statement. "Like most Americans, we were one emergency away from having to move, which we did many times, if anything unplanned happened because of her restricted income and prioritizing being present for her children."

The Compton Pledge is in partnership with the Jain Family Institute and the Fund for Guaranteed Income. According to The Compton Pledge's fact sheet, the program has already raised upwards of $2.5 million in private donations and more in-kind support. All donations will go to the Fund for Guaranteed Income, which is led by Nika Soon-Shiong, the daughter of LA Times owner and billionaire bioscientist Patrick Soon-Shiong.

Compton, with a population of 95,000, has upwards of 1 in 5 residents living in poverty, double the nationwide average, city officials said. Local housing assistance in the city is at capacity, and 46% of its residents are renters. Since the outset of the pandemic, city officials say its unemployment rates have skyrocketed to 21.9%, and a growing segment of its population are relying on food pantries.

"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."

A number of cities across the country are expressing more willingness to consider universal basic income, and the concept was the basis of tech entrepreneur Andrew Yang's presidential run. The California city of Stockton launched their program last year, and Los Angeles and Long Beach exploring their own pilot programs.

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