California lawmakers just approved the nation’s first guaranteed income program

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  • California lawmakers approved a program that would provide monthly checks to residents.
  • This guaranteed income program will prioritize pregnant people and those aging out of the foster system.
  • The state is the first to implement this type of program, which many Democrats have been pushing for.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

In the first-of-its-kind state initiative, California just approved a program to distribute monthly checks to its residents, marking a step toward a universal basic income in the country.

On Thursday, California’s state legislature unanimously passed a $35 million guaranteed income program funded by taxpayer dollars, in which residents can receive up to $1,000 monthly checks. According to the text of the bill, the program would prioritize residents who age out of the foster system and pregnant individuals, and it does not contain any restrictions on how the monthly payments should be spent.

“I’d like to thank my colleagues for partnering with me on this important work and investing in this concept that will uplift the lives of so many,” California State Senator Dave Cortese, who advocated for the program, said in a statement. “I’m excited that 40 million Californians will now get a chance to see how guaranteed income works in their own communities.”

Cortese added that this program is modeled after a successful universal basic income program passed in Santa Clara County last year, which offered $1,000 monthly checks for a year to young adults who were no longer eligible for foster care.

The California Department of Social Services will administer the funds equitably for both rural and urban applicants, and the bill now heads to California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk for approval.

The idea of a universal basic income is becoming increasingly popular. After the pandemic spurred Congress to approve three stimulus checks for Americans, some Democrats began to call for those checks to continue well beyond the end of the pandemic.

On March 31, in the midst of infrastructure negotiations, 21 Democratic senators urged President Joe Biden in a letter to include recurring direct payments in his infrastructure plan, saying that when checks ran out after the CARES Act, poverty rose.

Insider also previously reported that a fourth and fifth stimulus check could cut the number of Americans in poverty in 2021 from 44 million to 16 million while helping close imbalances in poverty, income, and wealth between white Americans and Americans of color.

Biden has not yet commented on if recurring direct payments will become a reality, but California might have paved the way for other states to follow suit and amplified Democrats’ calls to give every resident guaranteed monthly payments.

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