$1,000/Month for Foster Youth, Apply Now
By Dianne Anderson
With rents sky high and food budgets close to a new car payment, the $24,000 in free money over the next two years should make a big difference for 200 former foster students who get the luck of the draw.
BREATHE, a pilot program that serves 1,000 eligible residents for three years, is now rolling out to help an additional 200 “aged out” former LA County DCFS Foster Youth between the ages of 21 and 23 to receive $1,000 each month.
Last week, Los Angeles County Board Supervisor Holly J. Mitchell spoke of getting money directly into the hands of people to fight poverty, especially in light of job losses and economic disruption nationwide. She said the guaranteed income model is to supplement, but not replace work.
The idea that people want money without work is something that she doesn’t see in the process.
“There’s enough data that proves that resources for our communities are most effective when it’s not tied to jumping through demeaning hoops, and antiquated requirements that many of our entitlement programs have affixed to their policy,” said Mitchell, representing the Second District.
Applications are quick and easy, but on a tight window of time, which started Tuesday, June 20 at 6:00 a.m. and runs until Monday, July 3, at 11:59 p.m. The process is not first come first serve, rather participants will be randomly selected.
In April, the Board of Supervisors approved expanding BREATHE, one year after Supervisor Mitchell authored the motion to create the program. On the question of need, she said most children in out-of-home placement are Black and Latino, at a disproportionate rate compared to their overall county population.
The data shows the unhoused have experienced a disproportionate impact post-COVID and a need for additional resources. She wished to have helped more people, but funding is limited.
“If I had a true magic wand, we wouldn’t have limited the BREATHE program to the number we did, nor foster youth, it’s really about budget and capacity,” she said.
Initially, the program was to cast a broad net countywide, and serve as many people as possible. Seeing the level of need of former foster youth and looking at the demographics led her to push to expand the subset of the BREATHE program.
The idea goes back to Dr. Martin Luther King’s in addressing the anti-poverty goals, and leaders that formed policies that led to the Poor People’s Campaign, she said. Today, she feels society is going down a similar path with Guaranteed Basic Income for All programs.
“I want us to begin to think differently about how we value work and stop devaluing people who don’t earn at the same rate as others,” she said.
For the BREATHE program, participants will be surveyed at the start, the duration, and toward the end of the final disbursement to measure outcomes, finances, education, physical and psychological aspects. That will be compared with the youth that didn’t receive the guaranteed income.
Allison Thompson, executive director of the Center for Guaranteed Income Research at the University of Pennsylvania, said participants received $500 a month for two years with the guaranteed income model in Stockton, and came away with better physical and mental health, and better at financial emergencies.
“These kinds of outcomes mean that people are not just stuck on survival trying to meet their basic needs but are instead able to thrive within communities. The buffer that cash provides allows participants breathing room to set goals and live beyond just survival,” she said.
On the BREATHE website, applicants must be former Los Angeles County DCFS foster youth that were in care on or after their 18th birthday, live in a Los Angeles County neighborhood that falls at or below 100% of the County’s Area Median Household Income. They must have been negatively financially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and not currently enrolled in another Guaranteed Income project offered by the County, a city, or other public or private entity, such as Breathe, Long Beach Pledge.
Last month, the city of Long Beach announced its disbursements have started from the guaranteed income pilot program at $500 a month for 12 months to 250 families with children who live in the 90813 zip code. Families selected were below 100% of the federal poverty line with one income earner per household.
Applications initially opened for Long Beach Pledge Guaranteed Income Pilot last November, with 2,800 applications received. Of those, 250 single-headed families with children were selected.
“Our communities need critical assistance to recover from the financial burdens of the pandemic,” Mayor Rex Richardson stated. “The Long Beach Pledge is providing that financial support to our most vulnerable families. We look forward to distributing these funds, evaluating the positive impacts of this pilot program and identifying expanded opportunities for guaranteed income programs.”
Edward Henderson can think of more than a few students that could use the extra help at Long Beach City College.
Henderson, who works with foster youth, said LBCC foster students have dedicated counselors and extended services, like laptops, but they also can access an additional $400 per semester.
He said their program offers food, free Wi-Fi, and tries to help as many students as they can through grants.
“This past semester we gave about 75 students a $500 emergency grant, so they can pay for their housing utility or something going on with their car,” said Dr. Henderson, who oversees the Guardian Scholars and Foster Youth Support Services Program, and is director of EOP&S, CARE, and CalWORKs.
Through his programs, students meet regularly with counselors, who help keep them in compliance and on track with their goals for the following semester.
Foster kids have it harder because the average family usually steps up to help when the children are homeless.
Even though they never had that type of stability, he said they are strong and make the most of what they are given when they are given a chance.
“I’m still connected with quite a few foster students I’ve met through my career journey and I’m so proud of them. They’re getting their bachelor’s and their master’s degrees. They have literally turned their lives around,” he said.
For more information and to apply, see https://ceo.lacounty.gov/pai/breathe/