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Guaranteed income embraced by leaders of some of largest US counties

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(LOS ANGELES) — Some of the largest counties in the U.S. are joining forces to provide guaranteed income to residents in need.

County leaders from Los Angeles County, Chicago’s Cook County, Houston’s Harris County and more help make up Counties for Guaranteed Income, a coalition of local leaders hoping to collect research to try to expand no-strings-attached cash assistance programs nationwide.

Research suggests that guaranteed income can provide a path to financial stability and address poverty as well as racial, wealth or income inequalities.

“It’s not just the morally right thing to do. It’s actually pragmatic and economically a smart strategy as well,” Will Jawando, a Montgomery County, Maryland, councilmember at-large, told ABC News. “We saw with the child tax credit, we saw with the stimulus.”

“Those are forms of guaranteed income that were temporary. For the child tax credit, for example, lifted [nearly] half of kids out of poverty during that time,” Jawando said, citing Census Bureau numbers.

Coalition members recently met with leaders at the White House and Capitol Hill to make the case for guaranteed income efforts, including the child tax credit, according to Jawando.

However, guaranteed income is not supported by all. Some critics argue that these programs will stop people from working — though such claims have been challenged — or will be too expensive to maintain.

The board is following in the footsteps of Mayors for Guaranteed Income, a similar group made up of more than 100 mayors across the country. So far, their programs have impacted almost 6,000 people, offering monthly payments of up to $1,000 for as long as three years.

Most of the money spent in these programs was used on retail sales and services, followed by food and groceries. Transportation and housing expenses followed, respectively.

Participants have previously told ABC News that the programs have taken weight off their shoulders — helping them pay bills, afford care for their children and provide stability.

“Whether it’s buying a car to get to that next job that’s a little further away, investing in education, paying for childcare, which we know is very high — people are using it in different ways,” Jawando said. “But what it’s doing is it’s it’s allowing space in relieving pressure so that they can take care of themselves and their families and move up the economic ladder.”

Though the coalition of county leaders has just begun, county-based initiatives are well on their way.

Los Angeles County’s Breathe pilot program allots $1,000 payments to 1,000 randomly selected participants for three years.

“The insights we gain from our pilot will add to the repository of data that proves that people facing economic hardship know how to allocate money in a way that best provides for their families,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Holly J. Mitchell in a statement on the CGI website.

Cook County’s Promise Guaranteed Income Pilot provides $500 monthly payments to 3,250 low-income households for 2 years. It started in December 2022.

“With this stable foundation, people can further support their families, pursue education and find new job,” said Toni Preckwinkle, president of the Cook County Board of Commissioners, in a statement on the CGI website. “With more stability, people invest in themselves and their families, take risks and even start businesses.”

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