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California senator offers checks for low-income homeless high school students


A state senator is to mail unconditional checks to homeless high school students in California.

CALIFORNIA, USA — This story was first revealed by Cal Matters.

As efforts to provide a guaranteed income grow in California, a lawmaker who has pushed for such state-funded pilot apps has set his sights on another resident he says stands to benefit — high school students at maturing low income.

State Sen. Dave Cortese, a Campbell Democrat, is sponsoring a bill for the state to present unconditional checks to about 15,000 high school seniors who have experienced homelessness from start date to enrollment in the fall in faculty or vocational school or their entry into the labor market.

According to the California Department of Education, approximately 183,000 California Okay-12 students were homeless at some undetermined point in the future during the 2020-21 school year.

The proposed laws do not specify how high school students would apply for the funds or how much they could be. Cortese mentioned that he hoped the pilot program would provide monthly checks of $1,000 for 4 or 5 months for the Class of 2023, which would likely cost the state about $85 million a year.

The laws were handed over by the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday with little opposition and are heading to the Senate Human Services Committee.

The bill was born out of a unique idea to pilot a foundational revenue program on select California State University campuses, where nearly 11% of students reported experiencing homelessness in 2018.

Cortese said he offered it to high school seniors as an alternative to avoid interfering with student financial support calculations; the bill can help students living in poverty rent a condo or pay for school lunches if they enroll, but there’s no obligation to take action.

Christina Torrez, a Bakersfield College student and former foster child who experienced homelessness in high school, told lawmakers on Wednesday that a foundational compensation package would allow students to focus on their education.

“Honestly, school wasn’t important to me back then, because I had to know where I was going to eat, where I was going to sleep,” Torrez said. “What it does is allow a homeless young person to get rid of quite a burden.”

This is the most recent assured income proposal for California, which has seen a number of local governments launch pilot projects after a highly publicized experiment in Stockton from 2019 to 2021 giving 125 households $1,000 a month.

The intention is to reduce poverty and provide beneficiaries with additional flexibility to spend the money compared to conventional social providers. Critics raised questions that the checks would discourage work.

Early results from Stockton’s study found that full-time employment rose 12% over the full year, and contributors reported less economic instability and better health outcomes. Former Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs is now an adviser to Governor Gavin Newsom.

Many local efforts are privately funded, but some cities are using federal COVID-19 reduction funds.

Last year, lawmakers invested $35 million in state funds to create the nation’s first publicly funded program. The California Department of Social Services is preparing to allocate the funds to cities and counties to send checks to residents, prioritizing former young adoptees or pregnant women. He hasn’t started taking goals yet.

Cortese said he’s trying to find ways to gradually expand that system to other teams that might use a “soft landing” on the road to financial independence, like high school kids.

“My vision is that you start installing guaranteed income at the right time in a person’s life,” to avoid having to cycle through shelters, he said.

“It’s more like a move,” Cortese said of the statewide fundamental gains effort. “I just need to come back every legislative session and try to put another brick in the wall.”

This article is part of the California Division project, a collaboration between newsrooms inspecting income inequality and financial survival in California.

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