WeHo Re-Opens Applications for Guaranteed Income Pilot Project for Older Adults

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West Hollywood City Hall May 2022 - Photo by Paulo Murillo for WEHO TIMES

The City of West Hollywood will re-open applications for the guaranteed income pilot project aimed at evaluating the impact of cash payments on the financial stability and quality of life of older adults. Guaranteed income is a direct and regular cash payment – no strings attached – provided to a specific group of people for a designated time. The application will open on the website beginning Friday, June 17, 2022, and will close on Sunday, June 26, 2022.

The program is no longer exclusive to LGBTQIA seniors due to potential legal challenges. Beginning June 1, 2022, community members may access www.ncjwla.org/whpgi to learn more.

In January 2021, the West Hollywood City Council approved an item for the City of West Hollywood to join the Mayors for Guaranteed Income (MGI) network and directed staff to develop a guaranteed income pilot program for West Hollywood, including identification of research, funding, community implementation, and evaluation partners.

There are numerous cities, counties, and private guaranteed income pilots happening throughout the nation. Guaranteed income pilots are a way to test the impact of cash payments, while also providing a service to help financially stabilize community members and learn information to help create future, evidence-based policies and programs.

Community members who are interested in applying for the West Hollywood Pilot for Guaranteed Income must reside in the City of West Hollywood, be 50 years or older, and have an individual income of $41,400 or less. The program will be facilitated by the National Council of Jewish Women Los Angeles. People who need assistance applying may call (323) 852-8500, ext. 650, or may send an email message to whpgi@ncjwla.org.

A total of 25 qualifying participants will be randomly selected from the pool of eligible applicants to receive unconditional monthly $1,000 payments from September 2022 through February 2024.

The move to re-open applications for the pilot project for guaranteed income follows a shift in March 2022 when the City became aware that the pilot, because it was created and supported by a government entity, was susceptible to legal challenges due to the inclusion of LGBTQIA criteria as an eligibility requirement to participate.

The City, with the help of Mayors for a Guaranteed Income (MGI) and the Center for Guaranteed Income at the University of Pennsylvania (CGIR) had originally developed a data-driven guaranteed income pilot that was set to launch in April 2022 and would have been the first LGBTQIA-focused pilot and the first older adult-focused pilot in the nation.

Protecting the rights of LGBTQ community members has been a long-standing mission of the City, and the City has worked tirelessly to identify and address inequities. For years, the City – along with LGBTQ advocates nationwide – has fought for equal civil rights, including the right to marry, the ability to obtain access to spousal protections and benefits including healthcare and pensions, and efforts to reduce/eliminate discrimination in housing and employment. These hard-earned rights and protections come with other legal consequences as well. Although the City could engage in a legal battle over the contested eligibility requirement, the implications of litigating such a challenge had to be considered. Having LGBTQIA identification as an eligibility requirement for the pilot could potentially violate the California Constitution as sexual orientation is a protected suspect class in the state.

Therefore, the City Attorney, City staff, and pilot partners recommended that the City Council of the City of West Hollywood revise the pilot to include three of the four original criteria (residency, age, and income level) in order to satisfy the legal obligations, protect potential participants, and move forward with a program that serves community members in need of financial support and stability. All applicants from the first iteration of the pilot will be automatically entered into the pool of applicants for the revised pilot.

The City of West Hollywood seeks to test the emerging promise of guaranteed income to help prevent homelessness, support community members as they age in place, and to reduce the stressors of poverty and financial insecurity.  In addition, the West Hollywood Pilot for Guaranteed Income seeks to examine impact in the following areas:

  • Quantitative data to evaluate the collective impact of guaranteed income on different populations;
  • Capture unique qualitative narrative information to provide greater understanding into the income challenges faced by older adults in West Hollywood and inform the creation of evidence-based policies and programs to better support the health and well-being of older adults; and
  • Test the concept of guaranteed income to evaluate whether to expand the initial pilot or create new/additional pilots in the City.

The City will engage two nonprofit partners in the pilot. The first is the Center for Guaranteed Income Research at University of Pennsylvania as the research and evaluation partner responsible for creating and administering the research instruments, conducting the randomized selection of eligible applicants to participate in the pilot, collecting/processing/analyzing the data, and providing a report on the findings.

The City’s second partner in the pilot is the National Council of Jewish Women Los Angeles (NCJW|LA) as the nonprofit administrator implementing the pilot. NCJW was selected for its knowledge, experience, and understanding of the nuances of guaranteed income. NCJW will be responsible for conducting outreach to the community about the pilot, assisting community members to complete applications, verifying that West Hollywood residency and other pilot criteria are met to ensure the eligibility of each applicant, submitting the completed and verified applications to CGIR for the randomized selection of participants, and notifying the participants selected by CGIR. They will also conduct onboarding and provide individualized benefits counseling for each participant, manage a storytelling cohort and storytelling activities that complement the research component of the pilot and provide the participants an opportunity to share their experiences in their own voices. In addition, the nonprofit administrator will subcontract and coordinate services with a nonprofit financial distributor (utilizing debit card services) to ensure that funds are distributed to participants in a timely, predictable, and seamless fashion.

Additional information about research and evaluation, as well as pilot partners and pilot funding is available in the May 2022 City Council staff report at https://weho.granicus.com/MetaViewer.php?view_id=&event_id=1357&meta_id=228362.

For more information, please contact Diane Kahn-Epstein, the City of West Hollywood’s Strategic Initiatives Program Administrator, at (323) 848-6548 or at dkahnepstein@weho.org.

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