A Healdsburg mother of three is among those who helped research and develop ideas and processes for a county-wide plan, just announced, to provide a monthly guaranteed minimum income to over 300 local families.
“The guaranteed income program will be a great economic relief for families,” said Devi Cibrian, a client at Corazón Healdsburg. “With additional income, low-income families like mine will be able to cover essential needs like rent, bills and filling the fridge with food.”
The County of Sonoma is teaming up with Healdsburg and two other cities to launch a two-year pilot program that will provide a guaranteed minimum income of $500 a month to 305 low-income families, while studying the program’s impacts on reducing poverty and promoting economic stability and mobility.
Also partnering in the program are the cities of Santa Rosa and Petaluma, and a coalition of community groups called Pathway to Income Equity. The project is a collaborative effort by the Sonoma County Guaranteed Basic Income Coalition, a group of community-based organizations led by First 5 Sonoma County in partnership with the Fund for Guaranteed Income.
“Many in our community continue to struggle to afford their basic needs,” said Supervisor James Gore, chair of the Board of Supervisors, who represents the north county as 4th district supervisor. “This Guaranteed Income pilot will ensure that participating families can cover expenses not covered by other benefits, such as rental assistance and food stamps, which are insufficient, especially for families with young children.”
Guaranteed minimum income programs, sometimes referred to as universal basic income programs, have been tested in several jurisdictions in California, including Stockton, Oakland, San Francisco and Marin County. They provide unconditional, guaranteed monthly payments to support recipients’ fundamental needs.
The Stockton program, one of the first of its kind, “led to increases in recipients’ financial stability and full-time employment, in part by enabling new opportunities for self-determination and goal-setting while reducing anxiety and depression,” according to a press release from the County of Sonoma. “Analysis of monthly expenditures by participants revealed that the largest spending category was food, followed by utilities, auto care and transportation. Less than 1% of monthly purchases were for tobacco and alcohol.”
The $5.4 million effort includes funding from the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors, the city councils of Santa Rosa, Petaluma and Healdsburg, as well as Corazón Healdsburg and First 5 Sonoma County. But more than 90% of the pilot project funding is from the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), intended to help the county recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Healdsburg’s assistance includes $250,000 contributed by the City of Healdsburg to Corazón Healdsburg, a nonprofit focused on social and economic justice. Corazón has committed $600,000 to support the project, including the city’s contribution.
“Healdsburg is excited to be at the forefront of this evidence-based approach to support our low-income families during what continues to be a very challenging time in our community,” said Healdsburg Mayor Osvaldo Jiménez.
As part of Sonoma County’s pilot program, the coalition will track and analyze the experiences of families to document the impacts of stable income on family functioning, child development, mental health and other factors.
A 2021 United Way of California study revealed that 52% of Sonoma County households with children under six struggled to cover basic needs. Single mothers are most likely to struggle: 67% in the county were below the study’s self-sufficiency standard. Additionally, Black, Latino, Asian and Native American households make up 33% of the total population in Sonoma County, but comprise 70% of the households struggling to meet their basic needs.
“It makes me happy and I’m so excited to think about what families will be able to accomplish with this economic assistance,” said Cibrian. “I know that with these funds parents will be able to help bring food home, pay for housing, and bills on time—to buy clothes and shoes for the kids.”
Research shows that poverty is closely tied to a child’s lack of readiness to succeed in kindergarten, and to poor academic achievement, a higher likelihood of dropping out of high school and multiple long-term adverse health outcomes.
“I’m sure there will be less stress in homes,” said Cibrian through a translator. “Moms who don’t work because they don’t have enough money to pay for child care can afford to grow their skills and develop their personal abilities.”
The Pathway to Income Equity program began accepting applications on Sept. 2. To apply, visit www.pathwaysonoma.org/apply through midnight, Oct. 31.