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Pilot program for guaranteed income begins in Sonoma County

As part of a growing national movement, Sonoma County will be introducing a pilot program to help lift families out of poverty.|

Sonoma County is launching a two-year pilot program for guaranteed income to study the impacts on reducing poverty and economic inequality.

The $5.4 million collaborative project between the county, the cities Santa Rosa, Petaluma and Healdsburg and community-based organizations, will provide 305 Sonoma County families $500 per month for two years.

Qualifications to join program

– Family must live in Sonoma County

– Household income up to 185% above the federal poverty level dependent on family size (for example, $51,338 or below for a family of four)

–Parenting a child under the age of 6 and/or currently pregnant

– Experienced adverse economic impacts due to the COVID-19 pandemic (loss of employment, income, child care or housing)

The funding comes from the American Rescue Plan Act passed last year to address national recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. A news release from the county said, “More than 90% of the pilot project funding is from the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), intended to help the county recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Guaranteed income programs have started across California and the United States. In Stockton, a guaranteed income program led to “increase in recipients’ financial stability and full-time employment,” while also “reducing anxiety and depression” among those studied.

“Many in our community continue to struggle to afford their basic needs,” chair of the Board of Supervisors James Gore said in the news release. “This guaranteed income pilot will ensure that participating families can cover expenses not covered by other benefits such as rental assistance and food stamps, which are insufficient especially for families with young children.”

Advocates like Angie Dillon-Shore, executive director of First 5 Sonoma County, a Santa Rosa nonprofit focused on childhood development, said in the news release that guaranteed income programs “clearly demonstrate the power of unrestricted cash to support the health, well-being and economic stability of families.”

By “raising the income floor,” families can cover their basic needs and expenses, reducing food and housing insecurity and improving health and education outcomes, Dillon-Shore said.

The Pathway to Income Equity program will be accepting applications for the guaranteed income program until midnight on Oct. 31 on their website pathwaysonoma.org/apply.

Contact Chase Hunter at chase.hunter@sonomanews.com and follow @Chase_HunterB on Twitter.

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