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Universal basic income program focuses on young adults getting out of foster care

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Posted at 6:50 AM, Mar 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-03 11:12:24-05

There has been a lot of talk about “universal basic income” recently, especially during the pandemic. It’s the concept of giving money to people, no strings attached.

We've seen pilot programs around the country, but one California county is unique in how it's believed to be the first targeting a specific vulnerable group. Last summer, Santa Clara County started giving $1,000 a month to young adults transitioning out of foster care.

One California senator is now proposing a similar pilot program for the entire state.

The people behind the pilot in Santa Clara County say they're already seeing the impact more than six months in.

“Just knowing that we're here to support them and that we believe in them, and we want them to make it through this pandemic has been powerful and I think it's helped change some of the distrust they had of government,” said Melanie Jiménez-Pérez, who manages the county’s program.

More than 70 former foster youth who are now 24 years old are receiving the monthly money. Jiménez-Pérez says the goal is to let the young adults think about what's coming next, instead of just focusing on how they're going to pay their bills for the month.

“We're not interested in each and every transaction. We're interested in seeing at the end of the one year, has their quality of life increased? Do they feel more stable in all the different aspects of their life? And that really goes to their well-being, which is what we're trying to improve,” said Jiménez-Pérez.

One criticism of programs like this is how people will use the money. So far, the county says some of the young adults have used it to maintain their housing or to go to school. Others have used it to buy something for their kids.

The county decided on $1,000 a month because it wouldn't have a huge tax impact for the people getting it. They also wouldn't make too much money to qualify for other public benefits.

The county is now looking at how it could fund this pilot beyond a year.