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San Diego nonprofit announces plan to provide free cash to families in need

San Diego for Every Child will distribute direct, unconditional monthly cash payments that can be spent on immediate needs to participants in the project.

SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — Local nonprofit San Diego for Every Child announced Wednesday it has taken the lead in a pilot project for the region's first guaranteed income project, "Resilient Communities for Every Child."

San Diego for Every Child, a nonprofit coalition housed under Jewish Family Service of San Diego, will distribute direct, unconditional monthly cash payments that can be spent on immediate needs to participants in the project.

Local families who have struggled during the pandemic could soon see the direct payments in their bank accounts. The program will launch in the fall and aims to deliver at least $500 each month for two years - no strings attached. 

“The whole idea of guaranteed income is that it’s unrestricted dollars and there’s no work requirement for it, said Director of San Diego for Every Child Erin Hogeboom.

The goal is to raise close to $2 million for direct cash payments from a combination of donations and likely government funding. 

Some critics call it welfare, but Hogeboom said there’s a difference.

“It’s much more cost-efficient, effective, and much more dignified for families to spend the money on what it is that they need in that moment,” she said

The funds are intended to supplement, rather than replace, the county's existing social safety net. Project leaders hope the funds will also serve to achieve economic justice and help address the racial and gender inequities that impact the lives of children experiencing poverty.

Hogeboom also said it’s worked in other cities. In Stockton and Compton, officials said similar cash projects were so successful researchers found crime went down and employment went up.

"People did not get lazy they didn’t start spending money on things like alcohol or tobacco,” said Rep. Sara Jacobs, D-San Diego, founding chair of San Diego for Every Child.

Though where the funding will come from is unclear at this stage, San Diego for Every Child plans to pilot Resilient Communities for Every Child later this year, driven by the continued devastation brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on children and families experiencing poverty.

“We will be picking families from the hardest-hit zip codes by COVID and childhood poverty in the city of San Diego National City,” said Jacobs.

Families will be randomly chosen and as of this story, only about 150 will qualify.

“What we’ll really be doing now is working to help identify what families will be eligible," said Hogeboom.

The project has also gained support from San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria and National City Mayor Alejandra Sotelo-Solis, who announced Tuesday their sign-on to Mayors for Guaranteed Income, a national network of mayors advocating for guaranteed income projects.

"I'm proud to join with mayors from across the country who are supporting guaranteed income, and I'm hopeful a pilot project here in San Diego can help uplift more local families and reduce child poverty," Gloria said. "This kind of initiative will keep families financially secure and generate much-needed revenue to help drive our economic recovery."

The project will focus on low-income families with children under the age of 12 and living in ZIP codes in San Diego and National City most affected economically by the COVID 19 pandemic -- often the same areas with the highest rates of children experiencing poverty.

More than 176,000 workers in the region remain unemployed due in part to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We've learned the hard lesson this past year that financial security can evaporate in the face of an unpredictable world and an economy that is more unequal than ever," Sotelo-Solis said. "Guaranteed income can provide financial stability to our community here in National City just as it can across the country, ensuring no one falls through the cracks."

More information about the program's launch and participant eligibility will be announced in the coming months. To sign up to receive updates on the program as they become available, or to donate, visit sandiegoforeverychild.org.  

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