California’s Guaranteed Income Bill Clears First Hurdle

Senator Cortese (D-Silicon Valley) is continuing his work to advance guaranteed income in California.

After creating the Santa Clara County Transition-Aged Youth Basic Income Pilot Program and following his 2021 bill, SB 739 - California Universal Basic Income for Transition-Age Youth - being incorporated into last year’s state budget through the historic $35,000,000 “California Guaranteed Income Pilot Program” to serve California youth exiting the state’s extended foster care program as well as pregnant women, Senator Cortese has introduced SB 1341 (Cortese, 2022), the California Success, Opportunity, and Academic Resilience (SOAR) Guaranteed Income Program to provide guaranteed monthly payments to homeless youth in grade 12.

SB 1341 cleared the California Senate Education Committee earlier today.

Higher education is increasingly becoming a necessity for homeless youth to exit poverty and attain financial stability, Senator Cortese says. He believes SB 1341 can provide unhoused youth leaving high school the means to enroll in a postsecondary institution.

California is a state affected by staggering inequities – we possess the most wealth, but yet suffer from the highest rate of poverty. And it is our youth that are stuck in a cycle of generational poverty without the means or opportunities to advance themselves,” says Senator Cortese. “SB 1341 will help unhoused youth exiting high school access higher education, employment, and financial stability as they make their way into adulthood.”

“When we invest in our children, we can break the cycle of poverty.

According to the California Department of Education, in the 2020-21 school year, there were over 183,000 students in California public schools who met the federal definition of homelessness. Of those, 15,000 were in grade 12. By these numbers, homeless youth represent about 3.8% of our total student population in public schools.

We put so much emphasis on the idea that if young people go to college, they can get a good job and achieve their dreams,” said Teri Olle, California Campaign Director for Economic Security Project Action, sponsors of SB 1341. “The reality is, in the richest state in the richest country on earth, this path is essentially blocked for the over 55,000 California high school students who are experiencing homelessness – and this number will only rise due to the economic fallout of the pandemic. The costs of higher education and living expenses, along with moving and books and other unexpected costs are often too daunting to overcome for youth already struggling with unstable housing and lack of financial support. That’s why we at the Economic Security Project Action are proud to sponsor SB 1341 (Cortese), which would give the 15,000 graduating seniors who are experiencing homelessness a guaranteed income in the transition months between high school and postsecondary education or employment. What we propose is simple: we're going to give students in need direct payments and provide them with the support they need to take the next step in their education or career. This bold proposal will disrupt the cycle of poverty that interferes with the ability to imagine – and achieve – a better future. California can do right by its young people by ensuring that they can make their way into adulthood with the resources they need.” 

Guaranteed income is proving to be a cost-effective policy solution to poverty and income inequality among marginalized communities,” said Michael Tubbs, Founder of End Poverty in California (EPIC) in a letter to the California Senate Education Committee. “The Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration (SEED) – a pilot I am proud to have launched while Mayor of Stockton – and the Santa Clara County Transition-Aged Youth Basic Income Pilot Program have both produced life-changing results for recipients. Moreover, recent research tells us that direct cash transfers, such as guaranteed income, can play a crucial role in helping youth to sustainably exit homelessness.”

Christina Torrez, a student at Bakersfield College and Youth Advocate from John Burton Advocates for Youth said SB 1341, “will allow youth to concentrate on their schooling rather than concentrating on trying to find where they are going to stay, where they are going to eat. I, myself, had to struggle with that. Honestly, school wasn’t important to me at the time because I had to figure out where I was going to eat, where I was going to sleep…..This bill will allow youth to be able to have stability through their education and be able to move forward.”

Scott Myers-Lipton, Ph.D., Professor of Sociology at San José State University said, “Starting about five years ago, two or three students every semester would come and tell me they were homeless. At first, it was shocking. Sadly, now it is the new normal. I’ve had students tell me that they were sleeping in their cars, the campus library, the student union, and benches right outside my office. I’ve spent many afternoons trying to find a place for my students to sleep at night.”

He added, “It’s outrageous and unjust that this is happening in our state to my students. Senate Bill 1341, a guaranteed income pilot program, will provide the most vulnerable California students entering college with much needed support all without impacting their financial or student financial aid.”

SB 1341 will next be heard in the California Senate Human Services committee.