Guaranteed Income Program Passes With Unanimous Bipartisan Support in California

Lawmakers in California, in bipartisan votes, unanimously approved the nation's first state-funded guaranteed income program—providing $35 million that will be used to pay qualifying pregnant state residents and young adults who have recently left foster care.

The votes for the monthly cash payments passed 64 to 0 in the California state Assembly and 36 to 0 in the California state Senate, the Associated Press reported on Thursday. Although not all state lawmakers cast votes for the guaranteed income program, Republican leaders expressed support for the $35 million in funding.

"If you look at the stats for our foster youth, they are devastating," state Senate Minority Leader Scott Wilk, a Republican from California's 21st District, said, according to AP. "We should be doing all we can to lift these young people up."

The money approved by the state legislature will go to local governments and organizations across California that apply for funding. Each local government or organization can set how much money will be given to an eligible individual, although the payments have generally been $500 to $1,000 in similar programs that already exist throughout the state and other parts of the country.

California State Capitol
Lawmakers in California, in bipartisan votes, unanimously approved the nation's first state-funded guaranteed income program. This photo shows the dome and exterior of the State Capitol building is viewed on January 27, 2015 in Sacramento, California George Rose/Getty Images

Guaranteed income or universal basic income programs have become increasingly popular in recent years. Former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang popularized the idea during his unsuccessful 2020 campaign, and the idea has gained traction amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Back in May, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved a pilot program that will dole out a minimum monthly payment of $1,000 to some 1,000 residents.

"It changes the philosophy from 'big brother government knows what's best for you,'" state Senator Dave Cortese, a Democrat from California's 14th District, said. "We've been very prescriptive with that population as a state and as counties go. Look at the failure. Half of them don't get their high school diplomas, let alone advance like other people their age."

Meanwhile, California has also approved substantial funding to benefit low- and middle-income residents. This week, Governor Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, signed new economic relief legislation that will provide some two-thirds of California residents with stimulus checks of $600. Dependents of California residents will also be eligible for $500 payments, as will undocumented immigrants. Those payments are slated to be sent out in September.

California lawmakers additionally approved a $5.2 billion plan to pay off all the unpaid rent of lower-income residents from during the COVID-19 pandemic earlier this year. Newsom hailed that economic relief legislation as the "largest rent relief package" the U.S. has ever approved.

"California is roaring back from this pandemic because we have your back. It's in that spirit that we've used California's historic surplus to make historic investments," the governor said in a statement emailed to Newsweek.

Newsweek reached out to Wilk's press secretary for further comment.