Long Beach Moves Ahead With Guaranteed Basic Income For Some Artists

Automation is inevitable and this city is looking to lead the way with innovative solutions, like Basic Income for artists. Will it catch on?

By: Hayley Munguia

A temporary guaranteed income could be on its way for up to 150 artists in Long Beach.

The City Council voted unanimously at its Tuesday, Nov. 17, meeting to direct the city manager to look into creating a fund that would provide $500 per month for a period of six months to artists and cultural workers who have been hit financially by the coronavirus to cover the cost of basic needs.

The proposal would use CARES Act Community Block Grant Funds, from the federal government, to finance the program, which the staff report said would fund “up to 150 artists who qualify across the city.”

Beyond that, there are few details about what the possible program would look like, including how artists would qualify. That’s because the city manager would have to figure out the specifics and bring the actual program back to the council to approve.

Mayor Robert Garcia, who brought the proposal to the council, has expressed support for the idea of a universal basic income program in Long Beach and is a member of the nationwide group Mayors for a Guaranteed Income.

He said the proposed artists fund is one form of a guaranteed income that will help Long Beach residents.

“As a city, our artists and cultural workers are the lifeblood of our community,” Garcia said. “Many of them are already lower-income folks who do the work because they love it, not because it’s highly paid.

So anything we can do to bridge their ability to stay in our city during this difficult time is really important.”

Tuesday’s vote came two months after the council voted in support of a potential universal basic income pilot program that would test out giving monthly cash payments to residents; the council also directed the city manager to seek grants and private foundation support to fund a pilot program.

That program will likely launch next year, according to Garcia’s office.

Garcia said during the Sept. 1 council meeting that even as the city looks beyond the coronavirus pandemic, a universal basic income could prepare Long Beach’s residents to weather other crises that lay ahead.

“The future with automation is in front of us, and other crises ahead of us like climate change are going to disrupt the economy,” he said then, “and Long Beach has always led the way with innovative solutions, so I am excited to pilot this.”

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