How many of you remember receiving a direct deposit (called a stimulus) from the government during the COVID-19 pandemic? Well, those types of payments might be coming monthly to a select group of California residents as part of a new guaranteed income program in Fresno County. Here’s what residents need to know!

Advancing Fresno County Guaranteed Income

The program, dubbed Advancing Fresno County Guaranteed Income, is being spearheaded by Fresno’s Economic Opportunities Commission (EOC). It aims to improve the quality of life in some of California’s most vulnerable communities. 

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Per the program’s official website: “The Advancing Fresno County Guaranteed Income Program offers a monthly supplement of $500 for one year to 150 households with young children (5 and under) in southwest Fresno and Huron.”

It’s A Response To The Child Tax Credit Expansion Expiring

The new program is a direct response to the expiration of the Child Tax Credit expansion. The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 temporarily expanded the child tax credit for the 2021 tax year, but it came to an end at the beginning of 2022. 

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During that time, households received $3,600 per child younger than age 6 and $3,000 per child up to age 17. While the effort helped reduce child poverty during that time, the U.S. Census Bureau estimated that child poverty more than doubled in the year after. 

Eligible Residents Can Spend Money As They Wish

Under the Advancing Fresno County Guaranteed Income program, eligible residents would receive $500 per month for 12 months (totaling $6,000 per applicant). Initial payments will commence sometime this summer.

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Unlike other federal or state benefits (SNAP, for example), the new program’s recipients are free to spend the money as they wish – including rent, utilities, groceries, gas, or even a night out with the family. Whatever they need to improve their quality of life, it’s theirs. 

Fresno EOC Has High Hopes For New Program

Fresno’s Economic Opportunities Commission (EOC) is optimistic about what the program will mean to the community. “Researchers expect that recipients will experience increased levels of health, happiness, financial stability, and full-time employment,” they said in a statement. 

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Emilia Reyes, Fresno Economic Opportunities CEO, said she is ‘grateful for the foundations who have stepped in to help make this vision a reality,’ and touted her team for making ‘a way out of no way’ – ensuring vulnerable communities can thrive again.

Richard Tate Excited To Learn From Fresno

Richard Tate, the CEO of California Wellness Foundation, is looking forward to ‘learning from Fresno and other communities how these programs link to improved health and wellness.’ He 100% supports the idea of giving low-income household the money they need to support their family. 

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“Economic security and dignity are essential to wellness, and guaranteed income programs protect people and families from financial distress by ensuring they have funds to put toward what they know they need,” he added.

Which Residents Are Eligible For The Program? 

If you live in the zip codes 93234 (Huron) or 93706 (southwest Fresno City), are at least 18 years old, are pregnant or have a child under 5 years old, or have an annual income 80 percent or less of your area’s median income, then you’re eligible to register. 

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Those living in Huron would have to make no more than $35,103 per year, while those in Fresno City would have to make no more than $30,615. They will only accept 150 applicants – 75 in each zip code – and they will be chosen through a lottery system.

How Can Eligible Residents Apply? 

If you’re eligible to participate, you can apply online (through an application portal) or in person (at one of two locations). The application will ask you to provide basic information about yourself, your household, and your annual income. 

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Fresno residents can apply in person at Fresno EOC’s Local Conservation Corps (Neighborhood Youth Center), which is located at 1805 E California Ave. Those in Huron can apply at the Senior Center, located at 16900 5th Street. 

When Does Registration Open? 

Registration is officially open, so families are encouraged to sign up right away – though you won’t get any advantage for submitting now. If you can’t submit an application right away, don’t worry – you have until May 15. 

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It’s unclear when the lottery will take place, but payments are scheduled to begin this summer – so the selection will happen rather quickly. In just a few months, 150 households will change for the better. 

November 2023: California Launches First Initiatives

In November 2023, California launched its first two state-funded Guaranteed Income Pilot Programs. The first one was in San Francisco, where 150 former foster youth were given $1,200 per month for 18 months. The state awarded the city $3,439,090 to fund the project. 

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The second one was in Ventura, where 150 former foster youth were given $1,000 per month for 18 months. At the time, Gov. Gavin Newsom said the initiative would ‘help level the playing field and will give these former foster youth the support and resources they need to pursue their California dream.’

L.A. County Has A Generous Program

One of the most generous Guaranteed Income programs in the country is found in L.A. County – which awards participants $1,000 per month over the course of three years. That type of money can and is helping vulnerable families live in peace. 

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“It’s taking me from always putting out fires to being able to actually make some moves to advance, not just being stuck,” said on L.A. County resident. “I didn’t expect to be accepted,” to the Breathe program. When I was, I was really, really pleasantly surprised. It definitely took the edge off.” 

Sacramento County Has Had One Since 2021

Sacramento has initiated three cohorts since 2021. The first one began in June 2021 and awarded 100 families in Sacramento County an extra $300 of income every month. It ran for nearly two years and eventually ended in May 2023. 

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The next two cohorts began in 2023. One is being funded by the City of Sacramento and awards 80 families with $500 per month for 12 months. The other is funded by the American Rescue Plan and a donation from the Sierra Health Foundation – it awards 130 households $500 per month for 12 months. 

Do Guaranteed Income Programs Work? 

While many people were concerned that the funds would be used in a dishonorable or wasteful way, research over the past few years overwhelmingly rejects that idea. In fact, a strong majority of families were spending the money on everyday expenses. 

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Some people are using it as an opportunity to start searching for a job – or, if they already had a job, then a better job. The problem is many families want them to last longer and they often face a little setback when they come to an end.