Compton mayor launches pledge: A guaranteed income initiative

Residents to receive recurring direct cash payments

OW Staff Writer | 11/5/2020, midnight

Compton Mayor Aja Brown recently announced The Compton Pledge, a landmark guaranteed income initiative that will distribute recurring, direct cash relief to approximately 800 low-income residents for two years, starting at the end of the year. Among city-led guaranteed income initiatives in the United States, the Compton Pledge will be the largest pilot, and is intentionally designed to challenge the racial and economic injustice plaguing welfare programs and economic systems.

It plans to reach irregularly or informally employed residents, immigrants of varied legal status, and the formerly incarcerated. The Compton Pledge is led by Brown in partnership with the Jain Family Institute, an applied research group, and the Fund for Guaranteed Income, a registered public charity launched to steward guaranteed income as a path to racial justice.

The Compton Pledge is supported by a Community Advisory Council of trusted leaders who co-designed the mission-driven initiative.

Under the program, a pre-verified group of low-income Comptonians will be notified of their selection and begin receiving cash transfers shortly thereafter. Recipients will be able to choose between multiple payment options to best suit their needs. Unbanked Comptonians will be provided with no-cost financial services; and, in partnership with a broad-based community coalition, a new online platform will facilitate applicants’ access to existing legal, psychosocial and counseling services, while lowering the burdens of enrollment. All funds are being raised privately.

“I know firsthand what guaranteed income could have done for my mother,” Brown said. “I’ve watched the many sacrifices she made, including walking to work to provide for my brother and I. Like most Americans, we were one emergency away from having to move, which we did many times, if anything unplanned happened because of her restricted income and prioritizing being present for her children. People in our community are going through tough times, and I know that guaranteed income could give people a moment to navigate their situation, and have some breathing room to go back to school, explore a new career path, spend time with their children, or improve their mental and emotional wellbeing. Ensuring all people are able to live with dignity is something we should all strive for in America.”

Compton, a city of 95,000 residents, acutely faces many of the issues that have defined a national conversation about racial injustice and structural inequality. Many of Compton’s residents, of whom 30 percent are Black and 68 percent are Latino, are either unemployed, poorly paid, or ineligible for government assistance. Upwards of 1 in 5 Comptonians live in poverty—double the nationwide average.

Local housing assistance in Compton is at capacity, presenting unaffordable hardships for a city where 46 percent of residents are renters. In Compton, rates of unemployment have risen to 21.9 percent since the beginning of COVID-19, and a growing number of residents regularly rely on food pantries.

Compton joins a growing movement of cities across the country experimenting with guaranteed income in response to the financial precarity exposed by the COVID-19 crisis. In June, Brown became a founding member of the Mayors for a Guaranteed Income, a consortium of 25 American Mayors committed to advocating for a national system of direct, recurring payments to vulnerable families.

To learn more about the Compton Pledge or how to get involved, contact Black Enterprise story comptonpledge.org.