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7-month mark for San Diego area's first guaranteed income project

7-month mark for San Diego area's first guaranteed income project
Posted at 3:34 PM, Oct 04, 2022

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - San Diego's first experiment with guaranteed income has reached its 7-month mark.

Kelvin Marshall is a dad to three girls, ages three, 14 and 15.

“It’s busy. It can be trying at times, but at end of the day, there’s a lot of love here,” said Marshall.

The 60-year-old single dad, who became a full-time parent after custody issues were resolved a few years ago, says finances have been challenging. He receives public assistance.

“Before, sometimes I used to say that some people were counting sheep to go to sleep. I was counting dollars,” said Marshall.

Earlier this year, Marshall was one of 150 families accepted into a first-in-the-region pilot program involving guaranteed income.

Headed by Jewish Family Service, the San Diego For Every Child program began giving $500 monthly stipends to low-income South Bay families in March.

It's funded by the state and the nonprofit, Alliance Healthcare Foundation.

“We want to see how cash, as an intervention, has an impact on a family's financial stability and their overall health and wellness,” said project director Khea Pollard.

So far, Marshall has used the money to help get caught up on bills and purchase food. He was able to buy clothes, diapers and other items for his youngest, and school supplies and clothes for the older girls.

“Just living day by day by day by day. Now there’s a burden lifted off me,” said Marshall.

During the first three months of the pilot, 41% of participants spent part of the stipend on food. 23% of participants spent on retail goods. 20% spent on transportation and 9% spent on utilities and other household expenses.

“We see families who truly don't have enough money. The high cost of inflation is impacting families. They’re having a harder time buying the basics,” said Pollard.

Critics of guaranteed income argue, handouts make people lazy, but the data tells a different story.

A study of a 2019 guaranteed income program in Stockton showed 28% of participants had full-time jobs at the beginning. It grew to 40% after one year.

Many participants used the money for things like child care and education to help them get jobs.

The San Diego project is one of about 50 similar programs launched nationwide.

“It's just other opportunities that they might not otherwise have. It’s only $500, but it makes a huge difference,” said Pollard.

"It's a lifeline. It’s that buffer,” said Marshall.

With his finances on steadier ground, Marshall hopes to look for part-time work, when his youngest heads to kindergarten in about a year.

“Allows me to definitely have peace of mind. I can sit back and start thinking about the future,” said Marshall.

The pilot program will run for two years.

Two other local guaranteed income programs are launching this fall, one led by the county aimed at at-risk families. The Jewish Family Service and the nonprofit Cafe X are also starting a project involving low-income black women.