By: ROBYN DOBSON
Over 70 families in Yolo County are now no longer living in poverty, living a dollar above the poverty line thanks to the Yolo County Basic Income Program.
Based on a recent survey of data from the Public Policy Institute of California, Yolo County ranked as having the highest adjusted poverty rate in California out of all 58 counties. The study, which used data from 2017 to 2019, found that the county has 20.9% of residents living in poverty, according to Nolan Sullivan, director of the Health and Human Services Agency.
“This is part of the reason we came up with the YOBI plan,” said Sullivan during Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting. “It’s to really target the families in the deepest need and sort of elevate them and help them change their lives.”
Launched on April 1, the income program is a two-year basic income pilot targeted to the county’s most vulnerable families with children under the age of six. The program co-enrolled Yolo County CalWORKS Housing Support families to provide additional cash benefits to 76 families. These families living in deep structural poverty are provided with a living wage stipend to pull that family’s total income over the California Poverty Measure.
Sullivan explained that a CalWORKS Housing Support Program family is a family on the CalWORKS program in Yolo County that is also homeless.
Every family in April 2022 with a child under the age of six and on the housing support program was included in the pilot. This equated to about .006% of the population. Families received their first payments between April 1 and 15 on their prepaid Usio cards.
“Today, these families are living a dollar above the poverty line and are working on turning and changing the lives of their families around them,” Sullivan said.
Each of the families receives a different benefit amount as the program provides a calculated basic income to the preselected population. According to Sullivan, the average monthly benefit is approximately $1,200. Families who receive active case management are allowed to use the benefits for whatever expenses or bills they wish.
“One of the tenets or principles of a basic income pilot is some flexibility and financial freedom for families to make their own choices,” Sullivan explained.
Families will continue to receive CalWORKS housing support program management services and have access to CalFresh, Medi-Cal, child care, mental health, substance abuse, education, housing and career supports.
In addition to the families receiving benefits, 103 Yolo CalWORKS families with children under the age of six will receive quarterly surveys as a part of the control group allowing staff to compare the two groups to demonstrate the benefits of providing a living wage income. These families will be given a $100 survey incentive for a total of $800 over the life of the program. The first surveys were launched in July.
To date, approximately $293,000 has been loaded onto the Usio cards, and according to Sullivan, about a $12,000 balance is left on the cards.
“Those families are using that money, paying those bills and rent and buying food,” he said. “Folks are not sitting on these funds. They’re spending them like we thought they would, and they’re buying things to help support their families and move their families forward.”
However, Sullivan noted that they still have a significant $1.8 million funding gap that would be needed in order for the program to run the full 24 months. The program has so far received county cannabis funding, Yolo housing support program funding, donations from Sutter Health Foundation, Sierra Health Foundation and Yolo First 5, an OCAP grant, and funds from several smaller financial institutions.
Sullivan explained that if the funding gap is not met, it is possible to shave months off the pilot to make it shorter than the planned full two years.
“We are certainly going to try over the next 10 or 11 months to find that money,” Sullivan emphasized. “We are actively fundraising and going to try really hard to get that funding.”