Compton Pledge guaranteed income pilot program offers as much as $1,800 every 3 months, no strings attached

COMPTON, Calif. (KABC) -- Four years ago Christine was addicted to drugs, homeless and pregnant. She lost custody of her daughter when she was born.

"I was trying so hard to get back on my feet," said Christine. "I was a functioning addict until it caught up to me."

A year of rehab helped. She became a Metro Bus driver and was reunited with her daughter. Then during the holidays, her 4-year-old got COVID-19, and Christine had to stay home to care for her.

"It's so depressing when you're a mom and you can't provide for your child," said Christine.

But in January, everything changed. Christine got an email from the City of Compton offering her $1,800 every three months for two years. No questions asked. No strings attached.

"I was really excited because I had just went on unemployment and I needed the money really bad and it was there just in time, to like pay the rent and stuff that we needed to pay," said Christine. "I mean thank you Jesus because at that moment I needed it, really bad."

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Sound too good to be true? It is a guaranteed income program called the Compton Pledge. City officials raised $8 million to fund the experimental pilot program.

Eight-hundred people will receive roughly $14,000 over the next two years, while a research team studies the impact the added income has on their lives. According to the FAQ section of the program website, participants are randomly chosen.

Also, the website states that the exact amounts received by each participant will vary, but each participant will receive at least several hundred dollars, with greater amounts received by parents with multiple children. The frequency of distribution will also vary but participants will be informed at the outset about the timing of their expected payments so that they may plan accordingly.

"This is about eradicating poverty and just the argument that everyone deserves to live a life that's dignified and we have the power to do that in one of the wealthiest nations in the world," said Compton Mayor Aja Brown.

Mayor Brown spearheaded the program in Compton but it was two years ago that Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs launched the nation's first mayor-led guaranteed income program, giving 125 randomly chosen Stockton residents $500 a month for two years.

The results from the first year of that experiment found the extra cash:
- Reduced income volatility
- Enabled recipients to find full-time employment
- Allowed for goal setting and risk-taking
- Resulted in less depression and anxiety

In fact, the people who received the cash secured full-time jobs at more than twice the rate of people in a control group who did not receive it. And what did they spend the money on? Researchers say food, clothes and utility bills.

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"We have to recognize the way our economy works. The government continually subsidizes large corporations in many ways and people that are lower income, they are not lazy, and they work very hard. They worked two and three jobs to survive especially in higher cost states like California," said Mayor Brown. "So it's not about who works the hardest, it about who has access to more opportunity."

Results from a similar program in Japan found recipients are nearly four times more interested in launching a new business. And that's what Christine says she'll do. She sees an online business in her future, so she can work from home and not have to rely on day care for her daughter.

"I hope that I accomplish moving out of this apartment and looking to my business growing and being able to own a home and then that way, I can be able to give back to them for what they've done for me," said Christine.

There have been several other basic income experiments around the world. Some have had no impact on employment either way, but there is growing evidence the free cash boosts happiness, health and school attendance and reduces crime.

For more information, visit www.comptonpledge.org.
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