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Davis, California

Friday, July 12, 2024

UC Davis to participate in county universal basic income pilot project

Yolo County Board of Supervisors approves agreement with UC Davis to research Yolo County’s “YOBI” through 2025


By MADELEINE YOUNG — city@theaggie.org


Last April, Yolo County launched its universal basic income pilot project titled Yolo County Basic Income (YOBI). YOBI provides families whose income falls below the poverty line throughout Yolo County a stipend each month in hopes of raising them above the county’s poverty line. 

On Jan. 10, at the Yolo County Board of Supervisors meeting, the board approved an agreement with UC Davis, allowing the university to assist in evaluating the program through interviewing and tracking project outcomes. 

UC Davis staff, professors and researchers have already been assisting in the pilot program, but according to the meeting agenda, the university will provide $350,000 by 2025 to research the economical effects of the pilot program. The meeting agenda details the responsibilities the university will have throughout the agreement. 

“Under the Research Agreement, Yolo County will partner with the University research team to seek additional funding for more comprehensive analysis, dissemination of findings, and long-term research goals,” according to the agenda. 

Yolo County’s Health and Human Services Agency Director Nolan Sullivan explained that despite universal basic income not being a new concept, Yolo County’s program is unique because it focuses on pulling entire generations out of poverty.

“What we were noticing was the benefit amounts for these families were really low,” Sullivan said. “So through these benefits, we are simply keeping families in what we call functional poverty, which is just enough to keep your mouth above the water, but it’s not really enough to survive or thrive. The thought was: if we can stabilize these families with kids under the age of five for the first couple of formative years, would that make a difference to them throughout the span of their lifetime?”

Families in the program receive a specific amount of money monthly over the course of 24 months depending on their income and the California Poverty Measure, an index created by the Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality, for the county. 

“For example, let’s say the California Poverty Measure says the family has to make $2,000 to not live in poverty in Yolo County,” Sullivan said. “If the family makes $1,000, then their basic income grant is $1,001 for the 24-month period. Every family has a different benefit amount, so it’s not just $500 or $300, we are literally pulling families out of poverty in the county for 24 full months.”  

The Stockton Seed program, which piloted five years ago, allowed low-income families to apply for a random lottery with benefits from $300 to $500. That program raised conversations about UBI locally, according to Sullivan. Similarly, Yolo County’s model hopes to promote universal basic income across California.

“The intention behind this pilot is to not only change the lives of the 67 families and hopefully break that cycle of generational poverty,” Sullivan said. “What we’re really hoping to do is inform a larger statewide pilot and inform us on how to help families across California.”


Written by: Madeleine Young city@theaggie.org