By: City News Service

Contributors: Melissa Mae / Freelance Reporter / Published December 3, 2021 at 2:39 PM PST

Two members of San Diego's statehouse delegation revealed details Friday of a $1.4 million program to support the region's first guaranteed income project.

San Diego for Every Child — a nonprofit coalition housed under Jewish Family Service of San Diego — received the money as part of the state's budget and intends to select 150 families of color with at least one child under the age of 12 living in San Diego or National City to receive $500 cash payments for 24 months.

The money can be spent on needs such as food, repairing a car to get to work, medicine to treat a loved one or rent.

"This year's state budget is one of the most equitable and transformative budgets in California's history," said Senate President Pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins, D-San Diego. "It allows for bold, once-in-a-generation investments.

"This initiative is designed to lift up our region's families and combat childhood poverty," she added. "Additionally, the state is poised to invest another $35 million in state funding across California to support guaranteed income programs which are vital in providing a safety net for struggling families while spurring economic recovery."

Atkins and Sen. Ben Hueso, D-San Diego, played major roles in securing the $1.4 million, which will be used to help launch the project, including providing a portion of the cash payments participants will receive.

Additional funding for the program is being secured through institutional fundraising and private philanthropy.

"It's time to end the narrative that people experiencing poverty simply need to work harder or make better choices," Hueso said. "Income inequality is at its highest rate since right before the Great Depression and is, at least in part, a result of policies and laws in this country that perpetuate poverty and racial inequity.

"Guaranteed income programs like San Diego for Every Child's can dramatically improve families' well-being and are an important step to help address some of the economic and social challenges we currently face in this country," he said.

The program intends to specifically focus on families from Encanto, Paradise Hills, National City and San Ysidro.

National City Mayor Alejandra Sotelo-Solis shared a story about her family not being able to afford glasses for her until she was in junior high.

“I remember hearing the song, 'Twinkle, twinkle little star, how I wonder what you a diamond in the sky.’ I never knew that when you look up in the sky it’s not this white blob, but it really is a diamond,” Sotelo-Solis said.

"Social justice starts with economic equity," said Khea Pollard, director of San Diego for Every Child. "Our Guaranteed Income Project is designed to support families who were not only hit hardest by COVID-19, but who were struggling to make ends meet before."

Other than living in the qualifying four area codes, Pollard describes the other requirements to qualify for this program.

“You know you have to be a family of color," Pollard continued, "You have to identify that way. You have to be low-income and you have to have one child, at least one child under the age of 12."

"Similar programs throughout the state have proven that direct, unconditional cash programs lead to greater success for participants, alleviating cumbersome processes and in turn, enriching their personal and professional lives," Pollard said.

San Diego for Every Child's eligibility survey for participation in the Guaranteed Income Project is open through Monday. The survey is available in English, Spanish, Somali, Tagalog, Vietnamese, Chinese and Arabic. Participants will be selected and contacted in January.

To learn more or apply, visit Surveys are being accepted until 11:59 pm on December 6, 2021.