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More than 48 programs have started nationwide since 2020, including a yearlong program in Los Angeles.
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Shortly after Michael Tubbs was elected in 2016, becoming the youngest person to ever serve as mayor of Stockton, he proposed an unconventional plan: giving unrestricted cash payments to the city’s most vulnerable residents.
Mr. Tubbs, now 32, learned about the concept of guaranteed income during his undergraduate studies at Stanford University. Once elected, he knew he wanted to apply it in the Central Valley city where he grew up.
During his first term, Stockton began the country’s first mayor-led guaranteed income program, offering $500-a-month payments to 125 residents for two years.
“When I first started working on this nearly five years ago, people called me crazy,” Tubbs told me recently. “Now unrestricted cash is seen as an impactful solution to income inequality.”
Since 2020, more than 48 guaranteed income programs have been started in cities nationwide, according to Mayors for a Guaranteed Income, a network of leaders supporting such efforts at the local, state and federal levels.
The idea behind such programs is that providing unrestricted cash payments is the best way to close the wealth gap and give people the opportunity to build more stable lives, including offering them a buffer time of sorts to focus on finding higher paying, full-time employment. Opponents have argued that the programs encourage people not to work.
I recently wrote about how these programs are blanketing the nation, with California as the epicenter of the movement.
Last year, the state set aside $35 million to help fund local guaranteed income programs — the first statewide funding of its kind.
In Los Angeles, a pilot program funded primarily by the city has already begun giving $1,000 a month to 3,200 low-income families. The pilot is slated to run for a year.
Oakland and San Diego have also recently moved ahead with programs, which are funded primarily with private money. Oakland’s will give 600 low-income families $500 for 18 months; San Diego’s will provide $500 a month for two years to several families with young children.
But questions remain about whether these programs can be expanded effectively.
An analysis from the Jain Family Institute, a nonprofit group that has studied several pilot programs, argues that the best path toward a national guaranteed income isn’t through scaling up pilots, but in reforming and expanding existing federal programs, such as the earned-income tax credit and the child tax credit.
“It does not make sense to take a municipal program and build it when there are already programs in place that can be reformed,” Stephen Nuñez, lead researcher on guaranteed income at the Jain Family Institute, told me.
Even so, the programs are pushing ahead at the local level.
Tubbs, who lost his re-election bid in 2020 and is now an adviser to Gov. Gavin Newsom, a proponent of guaranteed income, says the approach is a critical tool in achieving racial and economic justice for Black people and Latinos.
“The ways in which racism and capitalism have intersected to steal wealth from some communities,” he said, “creates the disparities we see today.”
Kurtis Lee is an economics correspondent, based in Los Angeles.
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Largest fire: The Mosquito fire in the Sierra Nevada became California’s largest blaze of the year on Wednesday.
Amazon lawsuit: California’s attorney general filed an antitrust lawsuit against Amazon, saying the retailer stifles competition and increases the prices consumers pay across the internet.
Rap lyrics: A bill being presented to Newsom would force prosecutors to seek a judge’s approval to introduce rap lyrics to a jury, CalMatters reports.
SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA
Search warrant: The home of the Los Angeles County supervisor, Sheila Kuehl, was searched Wednesday morning in Santa Monica, NBC Los Angeles reports.
Minimum wage: Opponents of a Los Angeles city measure that boosts the minimum wage for workers at privately owned health facilities have gathered enough signatures to force the City Council to either repeal it or put the issue on the ballot, The Los Angeles Times reports.
CENTRAL CALIFORNIA
Principal charged: The former principal of Wolters Elementary, Brian Vollhardt, was charged with misdemeanor child abuse after surveillance video captured him shoving a child in the school cafeteria, The Associated Press reports.
NORTHERN CALIFORNIA
The “Big One”: Researchers studying the Rodgers Creek fault estimate that it has enough strain to produce a magnitude-7.1 quake, an ominous sign after Tuesday evening’s tremors, The Press Democrat reports.
Gun permits: Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association vs. Bruen, applications to carry a gun in public in San Francisco have risen sharply, The San Francisco Examiner reports.
Wildlife: A first-of-its-kind analysis looked at the health of East Bay wildlife, from bats to bobcats and salamanders to steelhead, Berkeleyside reports.
These rice bowls, starring chickpeas sizzled in chile crisp, are both a comfort and a thrill to eat.
Today’s tip comes from Bill Menke, who lives in Twain Harte. Bill recommends Humboldt Redwoods State Park: “I recently drove my motorcycle through the Avenue of the Giants — as a landscape architect, this was one of the most wonderful rides ever.”
Tell us about your favorite places to visit in California. Email your suggestions to CAtoday@nytimes.com. We’ll be sharing more in upcoming editions of the newsletter.
Flying can cause anxiety for some travelers — and perhaps even more so in the age of Covid-19. The Wag Brigade is here to help. Roving therapy animals at San Francisco International Airport provide a dose of comfort to those on the go, and 37 U.S. airports now offer a similar service, The Mercury News reports.
Thanks for reading. We’ll be back tomorrow.
P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword.
Soumya Karlamangla, Steven Moity and Briana Scalia contributed to California Today. You can reach the team at CAtoday@nytimes.com.
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