What would you do with a guaranteed minimum income of US$1000 per month?
As of January, 3,200 Los Angeles families are receiving US$1,000 a month, no strings attached. This money that seems to fall from the sky comes from the Big Leap program. But, unfortunately for the beneficiaries, the program is coming to an end.
Chantel Tolmaire, accompanied by her daughter Sydney, proudly holds the flags in tribute to her police parents who died a few years apart.
In her small, low-rent apartment in Los Angeles. apartment, Chantel Tolmaire, a 39-year-old African-American, lives with her brother and 15-year-old daughter, Sydney.
She, who lost her two police parents a few years apart, appreciates the Spartan comfort of this accommodation, while discussing with her daughter the daily routine with a little more hope than less than a year ago, when she lost her job and her world fell apart.
We were living paycheck to paycheck, she said, with tremolos in her voice, our house was seized, and we became homeless overnight. Someone helped us by subletting us their place, but the money was tight. And a friend told me about an assistance program the City of Los Angeles offered.
This program is Big Leap, and it was her daughter Sydney who pushed her to enroll. I told him to do it, if we have it, great, if we don't have it, too bad. And a little later, we were accepted.
The program that saved Chantel's life allows her to receive US$1000 per month without any restrictions or conditions of use.
Celeste Rodriguez, project director at the City of Los Angeles, works within the Big Leap team, this famous guaranteed minimum income program.
Families can thus , with no restrictions, pay for everything they need right away: emergency health care, fridge repair, anything not covered by other health programs. help from the social safety net.
Celeste Rodriguez is part of the team administering the Big Leap Pilot Project which provides $1,000 per month to 3,200 families in Los Angeles.
The only condition to benefit from it is not to earn more than US$17,000 for a family of two or US$26,000 for a family of four, which, in the context of the high cost of life in the City of Angels, doesn't mean much.
No wonder so many of them tried their luck at being selected, as soon as the Big Leap pilot project was launched.
We received 50,000 applications, and every 25th day of the month, we send 3.2 million dollars to 3,200 families, explains Celeste Rodriguez. So far, we have already distributed 25 million dollars.
Among the 3,200 beneficiaries, there is also Stephanie Aviles, a Latin American from Los Angeles, mother of an 18-month-old baby girl. In the turmoil of the pandemic, she lost her car, her home, and all of her savings, approximately US$20,000, went up in smoke. The guaranteed minimum income took her out of the financial gap.
They gave me a big chance, I was able to pay my credit cards; I had a lot of debt, because I had lost my financial cushion.
But what does she say to those who say that receiving US$1000 for nothing in return encourages to idleness and profiting from the system?
Stephanie Aviles, who lives with her 18-month-old daughter in Los Angeles, is among the 3,200 beneficiary families of the Big Leap program.
What I would say to them is that I hope they will never be in the situation of being on the streets and asking for help. Personally, I don't think it's the government's responsibility to help us, I want to be able to prosper on my own. Especially coming out of poverty like me.
Celeste Rodriguez, who herself lived in poverty with her family, remains convinced of the merits of the program she administers within the City of Los Angeles. All of these prejudices are based on racist stereotypes. With Big Leap, we put a face to those in need. The mother of four who can buy them diapers or breastmilk substitute. This program has really given a sense of dignity to these deprived families.
The idea of offering an unconditional sum of money each month to the most disadvantaged so that they try to getting by has its supporters and detractors. But the popularity of this concept is on the rise.
In the United States, more than 48 guaranteed income programs have been launched in cities since 2020. And it is undoubtedly Los Angeles that has the largest program in this area. In total, more than 38 million dollars will have been distributed in one year to these families in need.
But, on December 25, the beneficiaries will receive the last check $1,000 USD from Big Leap as the pilot project is coming to an end.
The City of Los Angeles' Guaranteed Minimum Income pilot project helps 3,200 beneficiaries.
This worries many program participants, including Gariner Beasley, 61, who has had serious health problems. He is the father of four children, including a 17-year-old teenager who lives with him in a very modest house in a northeast Los Angeles neighborhood.
As I often tell my son, his mother and father aren't rich, but he doesn't lack much. We do our best and we split the rent in three with my ex and my ex-mother-in-law to have a decent shelter. He does not hide that he is very apprehensive about Christmas Day, the day of the ultimate check for the City's aid…
I have to rearrange everything, I make decisions about what I'm going to have to do. My biggest worry is whether I will remain stable enough to keep a roof over my head. This program was a godsend to me. I suggest it be extended for anyone who needs it. Because, let me tell you, we need it 1000, no, 100,000 percent.
The cost of living in Los Angeles plunges about two in 10 residents below the poverty line.
Chantel Tolmaire, she sees the future with a better eye, but there are still many question marks. I try to stay positive, but I'd be lying to you if I told you I'm not worried. However, I remain optimistic for 2023. She would like to go back to school, but then again, without the guaranteed minimum income, it may be difficult.
Stephanie Aviles is also thinking about changing careers after struggling in nursing. Her experience with Big Leap has in any case marked her for the future. It opened my eyes, it made me realize the limits I imposed on myself. I've done things I never would have thought of before, like having a financial plan.
Even though she no longer has the funds to fund Big Leap after Next Christmas, Celeste Rodriguez's team is already working on another pilot project to help those most in need. We will focus our efforts on another part of the population to continue studying the data on the guaranteed minimum income. We would hate to see some return to situations where they could no longer meet their basic needs. That's why we make our team's resources available to them, so that they can navigate the intricacies of the social fabric.
In the meantime, in a city where two out of ten residents live in poverty, the challenges remain colossal and the needs immense.