Some low-income National City and San Diego residents could soon qualify to receive guaranteed monthly payments of $500 through a pilot program funded by a local non-profit organization.
With funds raised by the Jewish Family Service of San Diego, starting this fall 150 families from both National City and San Diego will receive $500 a month for two years to be spent on whatever the family needs, like gas, car repairs, food for the household, medicine or housing expenses.
The pilot program will be the first guaranteed income program in the San Diego area and was created, in part, to address the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the low-income community. The pandemic caused unemployment in the U.S. to skyrocket to levels not seen in decades.
In National City, one of San Diego County's hardest-hit areas, the unemployment rate currently sits at 10.6%. It’s more than double what it was this time last year, according to the Employment Development Department.
“I don’t have a job right now,” said Yuridia Ortega, National City resident. “I'm not working and my husband hasn’t worked for a long time."
Ortega is one of the hundreds of residents unemployed due to COVID-19 in National City. She says both she and her husband have been relying on unemployment benefits to pay rent and put food on the table for their two kids.
"Most of the families need extra help during this time," said Judith Aijana, National City resident.
Aijana is all too familiar with the situation. She lost her job as a caretaker to the pandemic and relies on food banks to help feed her family.
For a community with an 18.3% poverty rate, help couldn't come fast enough.
“We're looking at families with youth in the household, working-class communities, and people that just need that little help,” said Alejandra Sotelo-Solis, National City's mayor.
The program mirrors a pilot program in Stockton which launched two years ago where 125 low-income families got $500 a month for a year. Researchers who studied the program found that participants with full-time jobs increased by 12%.
If chosen to participate, Ortega says she wouldn't think twice about what she would use it for.
“[I would use it] to buy some food or pay my bills," said Ortega
The project will focus on low-income families with children under the age of 12 living in zip codes in San Diego and National City most affected economically by the COVID-19 pandemic.
More information about the program's launch and participation eligibility will be announced in the coming months, according to Jewish Family Services. Updates will be released here.