LOS ANGELES - The BIG:LEAP, short for Basic Income Guaranteed: Los Angeles Economic Assistance Pilot program, went into effect Tuesday, giving qualified families their first $1,000 installment.
The program gives $1,000 in direct cash payments to 3,200 families each month for 12 months with no strings attached.
The payments will be unconditional, regular, and direct cash payments to individual participants that supplement existing welfare programs. The families selected had to live in the City of Los Angeles, be at least 18 years old, have at least one dependent child or be pregnant, have experienced a medical or economic hardship related to COVID-19, and have an income level at or below the federal poverty line.
For a family of four, the poverty line is an annual income of $26,500.
The initiative makes Los Angeles the largest city in the United States to launch a basic income program. It was spearheaded by Councilmember Curren Price of District 9, whose office is partially funding the initiative.
"It's going to be a lifeline and it's an opportunity to move beyond poverty, we hope. It's going to be a grand experiment, the largest one in our country so far," said Price.
Dajauna Marcella, and her 7-year-old daughter Rosalinda are overjoyed they were selected for the program.
"I felt like a big weight got lifted off of my shoulders. I started to get emotional because I started to think of everything I can take care of now and for little Rosalinda. I knew everything was going to be OK," said Marcella.
Marcella said the money will be used primarily for savings and food.
"The main goal is to make sure we have enough food in the house to carry us on to the next month and maybe mommy can save so we can try to move into our own home. I also enjoy feeding the people I see at the grocery store who are homeless and stuff so I prepare meals," said Marcella.
Marcella was laid off from her job during the pandemic, and has since struggled to find a job working from home.
"It [pandemic] has really put me out of work. I'm afraid to send my daughter to school with everything going on, and I know schools are safe but me as a mom, this is my only child. We're homeschooling, and it's hard for me to find work from home. Nobody wants an employee who works from home," said Marcella.
Marcella and her daughter went to the grocery store, Food 4 Less, on Tuesday to make a celebratory meal after receiving her first $1,000 payment.
"The grocery store is like the toy store [for Rosalinda]," said Marcella.
Yolanda, a mother of four daughters, also spoke with FOX 11 about how the program will benefit her family.
"I'm trying to further my education and so this program is really a blessing for me," said Yolanda.
Yolanda is returning to school to study psychology and said she is doing so to better provide for her daughters.
"For my family, I'm gonna definitely make it happen. If that means working more hours, I'll work, whatever needs doing and that's another reason I'm furthering my education because the more you know, the further you go and the more you make. That is my main goal, to make things happen for my daughters," said Yolanda.
Yolanda believes there is a need for the basic income program in Los Angeles.
"There is a need in the community, definitely, and I feel as if we're all kind of sort a paycheck away from what we see on these streets," said Yolanda.
The application process for the program closed in November of last year. Click here for more information on the program.