Guaranteed Income for Homeless Youth Bill Heads to Assembly

Senator Cortese’s (D-Silicon Valley) bill to provide guaranteed income payments to California’s unhoused youth has cleared a crucial hurdle today, advancing through the State Senate. The bill is now headed to the State Assembly.

Senate Bill 1341 would create the California Success, Opportunity, and Academic Resilience (CalSOAR) Guaranteed Income Program to provide guaranteed direct cash assistance to homeless youth in grade 12 – to combat what’s known as the “summer slump”, so that students can exit poverty and have access to a higher education.

According to Census Data (DataQuest), there were approximately 15,000 students experiencing homelessness who were enrolled in the 12th grade in California during the 2020-21 academic year. Experts report that a majority of these youth aspire to attend post-secondary education and an overwhelming majority (over 90%) wish to pursue careers that require some form of postsecondary education.

By eliminating barriers to higher education and creating more pathways for students, we can truly break cycles of poverty,” says Senator Cortese. “What we have seen is, when we trust these young people to make important financial decisions about their future, we empower them to take actionable steps to reach their goals.”

Senator Cortese’s SB 739 (2021) was incorporated into last year’s budget through the state’s first-of-its-kind investment of $35,000,000 in guaranteed income – the “California Guaranteed Income Pilot Program” to serve California youth exiting the state’s extended foster care program as well as pregnant women.

Principle co-author of SB 1341 San Francisco Assemblymember Matt Haney said the following:

“These young people are facing a fork in the road,” said Haney. “Our public school educators work hard and prepare their students to make sure they’re ready for college. If we can get them through the summer slump with a guaranteed income, then we’re setting them on a path to a college degree.”

Teri Olle, California Campaign Director for Economic Security Project Action, sponsors of SB 1341 said the following:

“With over 15,000 high school seniors experiencing homelessness each year, the California Senate passing SB 1341 is probably one of the best graduation gifts a lot of these kids could ever see. We are immensely glad that the California Senate has passed this bill, which will give the most vulnerable graduates a guaranteed income during their transition from high school to postsecondary education or career. The senate has taken a proven and practical tool – monthly direct cash payments – and used it to ensure high school seniors have the resources they need to pursue their dreams. The costs of higher education and living expenses and other unexpected costs are often too daunting to overcome for youth already struggling with unstable housing and lack of financial support. While the vast majority of students experiencing  homelessness want to pursue higher education, only about 50% end up enrolling, derailed by insurmountable costs. The phenomenon is so common it even has a name: “Summer Melt.” Guaranteed income for students can actually disrupt the cycle of poverty for these students and put them on stable footing for the future. Now we need to work to ensure that this bill makes it pass the Assembly, on Governor Gavin Newsom’s desk and gets fully funded – so that these students can start to build a better future.”

In response, Sarah Bouabibsa, West Advocacy Manager for Young Invincibles issued the following statement: 

“This is a major step toward breaking the cycle of poverty for the state’s over 15,000 high school seniors experiencing homelessness. The barriers that this student population faces only become harder to overcome once they graduate from high school. We are pleased that the State Senate has passed SB 1341, a program that uses direct cash assistance, a proven tool to break the poverty cycle. The challenges that young adults experiencing homelessness face can be insurmountable, especially during the transition period between high school graduation and higher education. For the qualifying 15,000 students, this bill is a monumental step toward reaching postsecondary education or career.

YI thanks Senator Cortese and Assemblymember Haney for their innovative leadership, and Economic Security Project Action for their commitment to lifting young adults out of poverty. As SB 1341 heads to the Assembly, we must keep pushing until it reaches the Governor’s desk and gets funded. Now is the time for us to invest in the most vulnerable students and empower them to build a future free of poverty.”