Update on Sonoma County’s Guaranteed Basic Income Pilot Program

A Guaranteed Basic Income Pilot Program launches in Sonoma County: What are the implications for local health and wellbeing?

In addition to supporting frontline community-based organizations, the Healthcare Foundation is focused on successful upstream interventions that improve and sustain health equity in our region. 

One year ago this month, we featured in this newsletter a story about an exciting initiative between the Healdsburg City Council and Healthcare Foundation grantee Corazón Healdsburg to plan and instigate a two-year pilot program that would provide—and evaluate the economic and health impact of—an unconditional cash stipend to local families with young children. Over the last year, that guaranteed basic income (GBI) project has grown into a county-wide initiative. 

We are happy to share the news that Sonoma County’s own GBI pilot program, Pathway to Income Equity, launches this month. First 5 Sonoma County is leading the program, which will have the participation of 305 local families—defined as pregnant individuals and/or households with a child under six years old, and disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. Eligibility also included living at or below 185% of the federal poverty line. Over 6,000 Sonoma County families applied, and the 305 participants were selected by lottery. 

Pathway to Income Equity is being made possible with funding from the County of Sonoma, City of Healdsburg, City of Petaluma, and City of Santa Rosa American Rescue Plan Act dollars and private investments from Corazón Healdsburg. And the pilot is operating in partnership with community organizations around the county. Social Policy Research Associates, meanwhile, will evaluate the program’s outcomes over its 24-month duration.

As part of the Pathway pilot, each family, including 50 families in Healdsburg, will receive $500 a month for 24 months, with no strings attached—which empowers each family to apply the funds where they will do the most good.

The GBI approach—a long-standing idea that has lately become an evidence-based national movement encompassing some 50 cities so far where pilot programs have been initiated—holds the potential of improving health outcomes in Sonoma County for adults and children who suffer multiple deprivations and stressors associated with poverty. 

Research from similar pilot GBI programs around the United States has already shown impressive results, including increases in financial stability and full-time employment among participants as well as measurable reductions in anxiety and depression. Such outcomes, we know, can have multiple positive impacts on the health and wellbeing of children and parents alike.

The Healthcare Foundation will be watching closely as this important initiative unfolds over the next two years, especially as it pertains to improvements in physical and mental health and wellbeing for north county communities—and we’ll be sharing what we learn with you.

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