California Bill to Provide Universal Basic Income to Foster Youth Moves Forward

A bill authored by Senator Dave Cortese (D-San Jose) to provide universal basic income (UBI) to our youth aging out of the foster care system and transitioning into adulthood has cleared crucial hurdles.

SB 739, the Universal Basic Income for Transition Age Foster Youth Act, has passed through the Senate Human Services Committee and will now be heard in the Senate Appropriations Committee.

SB 739 would provide unconditional and direct cash assistance of $1,000 a month to approximately 2,500 youth aging out of the Extended Foster Care Program in California. The pilot program, based on the successful model championed by Senator Cortese in Santa Clara County, would be administered by the Department of Social Services over the course of three years. The Senator is requesting $60 million from the State’s General Fund to fund this program.

Supporters of this bill include the California Youth Connection, and the California Alliance for Children’s Rights and co-sponsors of the bill include the Children’s Defense Fund of California, GRACE/End Child Poverty CA, and San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin. For a full list of bill sponsors as well as supporters and to learn more about SB 739, visit this link.  You can view Senator Cortese’s testimony and presentation of SB 739 at this link.

Last week, Senator Cortese joined Mayor Michael Tubbs, the founder of Mayors for a Guaranteed Income and Special Adviser for Economic Mobility and Opportunity for Governor Newsom, Congressmember Sara Jacobs, Madeline Neighly, Director of Guaranteed Income at Economic Security Project, Adam Roseman, CEO of Steady, and Gisele Huff, Founder of Fund For Humanity, for a round table discussion on universal basic income efforts across California and our country. Watch a recording of this event at this link.

Study after study indicate that foster youth are disproportionately impacted in nearly every facet of life compared to their peers in the general population”, said Senator Cortese. “As the children of our state, foster youth are not only worthy of investment, it is our obligation to invest in these youth and support them so that they can find a stable path to success after exiting the system.”

We can live in a society where everyone has a floor, which doesn’t mean that everyone has luxury, but it does mean no one should live in scarcity, no one should live in poverty,” said Mayor Michael Tubbs about the concept of a guaranteed basic income. “That’s not an idealistic argument. That’s an argument based on the reality of the resources and the wealth that we have as a society, but also an understanding of what it takes to be human,” he added. Mayor Tubbs recently called for and led the implementation of a basic income pilot in the City of Stockton called the Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration (SEED). Results from the SEED program displayed that participants used their cash assistance payments to pay for basic needs such as housing and food and that they were more than twice as likely to be fully employed compared to their peers who did not participate in the program.[1]

Something that is really important, especially now as we’re coming out of this pandemic and the economic crisis, is that these programs actually delivery dollars directly into the local economy,” said Congressmember Sara Jacobs. “It’s not just about the people who are getting the money, but actually how they are spending it, much of which is going directly back into circulation in the local economy,” she added.

We have to give people a floor under which no one could fall,” said Gisele Huff, president of the Gerald Huff Fund for Humanity, an organization that furthers advocacy for and policy initiatives centered around the implementation of UBI.