March 10, 2021

From Trauma to Triumph

From Trauma to Triumph

Youth aging out of the foster care system in California would receive a universal basic income, UBI, of  $1,000 a month for three years, under legislation

proposed by newly-elected state Senator David Cortese (D). John Burton Advocates for Youth (JBAY) executive director Amy Lemley and Senator Cortese discussed the proposal, SB 739, and the challenges facing foster youth during COVID recently, on KQED’s Forum.

UBI is an unconditional, periodic cash payment that a government makes to everyone with no strings attached. It gained national attention in 2019, when Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs piloted it by providing 125 randomly selected people $500 per month for three years.

Now Senator Cortese is proposing the approach for former foster youth. He is basing his proposal on a UBI program for former foster youth in Santa Clara County, which he initiated in 2020 while serving as a county supervisor before his election to the state Senate last November.

“The idea is not to be too prescriptive,” said Cortese. “It’s not Big Brother saying we know what’s best for you. It’s about here’s some basic, fundamental support, since you don’t have family support. Your family is the county, get out there and do your best with it.”

JBAY executive director Amy Lemley agreed with the Senator. “At times we’ve spent too much time talking about how foster youth are different and not enough time talking about how they need the same types of support that all young people need when they become adults,” Lemley told KQED.

“We know most families are providing some kind of support to their adult children, more adult children are living with their families, and they’re getting regular economic support. So foster youth are really no different; we want to give them the same kind of support to have a healthy young adulthood.”

“Foster youth have always faced a steep climb and the climb got a lot steeper with COVID,” added Lemley. “They’re being disproportionately impacted in terms of housing, employment, their connection with school. So we really need to step back and think about this next phase of their development and give them the same kinds of support that other young adults receive from their extended family.”

JBAY is working with Senator Cortese to help move this proposal through the legislature into law. The KQED Forum interviews with Amy Lemley and Senator Cortese are now available online.