By Sarah Ravani and Todd Trumbull | April 21, 2021 | Updated: April 30, 2021 4:12 PM (SFChronicle.com)
Guaranteed income programs have been around for centuries with a mention in Thomas More’s 1516 book “Utopia.” While the various welfare programs sprung up in the 1930s, a backlash was brewing by time the War on Poverty was launched during the 1960’s. Critics argued that increasing welfare encouraged people to reject work. In 1996, President Bill Clinton passed legislation that added work requirements for aid and capped how much aid a person could get. Politicians today say the narrative surrounding welfare must change. Support has recently grown for guaranteed income — giving cash payments to those who need it without any strings attached. Former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang introduced a proposal during his candidacy to give $1,000 a month to every U.S. citizen over the age of 18. Now, cities throughout the country are creating their own guaranteed income pilot programs. It’s also getting traction at the state level. A San Jose state senator has introduced a bill to provide universal basic income to youth aging out of the foster care system. The bill, SB739, would provide $1,000 a month to about 2,500 youth and would require a $60 million state investment. Supporters argue that pilot programs will ultimately show the federal government the benefits of these programs. They say that people will work just as hard and the extra cash helps keep people from falling deeper into poverty. In the Bay Area, several cities have launched or are in the process of creating guaranteed income program pilots. The pilots are so far small — Los Angeles just announced the biggest program nationwide, offering $1,000 to 2,000 families for one year — but with the automation of many jobs on the horizon, supporters argue this will one day be the norm.