By S. Priana Aquino
SAN JOSE, CA — Senator Dave Cortese Thursday held a press conference here to discuss the “Universal Basic Income for Transitional Age Foster Youth Act,” or SB 739, in California now being heard in the Legislature.
The bill, SB 739, would provide universal basic income to youth who have aged out of the CA foster care system.
Although there have been other CA initiatives created to support foster youth, none have been as widely supported or as wide-reaching as SB 739, said the author.
According to a May 2020 poll of young people in foster care, nearly 65 percent who were transition-age have lost their jobs, nearly one in five have run out of food, almost a quarter (23 percent) are at risk of losing their housing; and just 37 percent of the transition-aged youth have family members (legal or chosen) to rely on during the crisis—20 percent report they are entirely on their own.
The bill provides $1,000 a month for three years to youth aging out of the Extended Foster Care Program in California. This monetary assistance is intended to give them a stable path, keeping them from becoming homeless or depending on criminal activity as a source of income.
Sen. Cortese has been the leading force in bringing SB 739 to the public. The bill was inspired by a pilot program launched by Cortese in Santa Clara County, which gave $1,000 a month for one year to 72 young adults transitioning out of the foster care system.
In Thursday’s press conference, the senator’s team clarified that the approximate cost of implementing this pilot program is $30 million per year. The total comes to $90 million—a much larger amount than the $900,000 of funding given to the Santa Clara pilot program.
Some SB 379 sponsors and partners were present at the virtual conference and voiced their excitement over the bill’s growing support.
Kenneth Chancey, Policy and Organizing Manager at the National Foster Youth Institute, said that SB 739 would have a profound effect on foster youth: something he wished he had himself when he aged out of the CA system.
“I myself exited the foster system straight into homelessness where I resided on Skid Row for two years,” said Chancey. “My story is not unique.”
San Francisco District Attorney, Chesa Boudin, was also present as a co-sponsor of the bill. He highlighted SB 739 as a piece of “legislation that will offer a crucial lifeline.
“I grew up visiting both of my parents behind bars,” Boudin said. “I know the trauma that the sudden loss of a parent has on a child, and the lifelong support of resources needed to make that child whole again.”
Each one of them touched upon the importance of breaking the cycle of inter-generational incarceration and to continue offering support to the foster youth our community has neglected to aid properly.
While the bill is backed by many substantial partners and community advocates, it must still make its way through the Assembly. SB 739 has moved through both the Senate Human Services Committee and the Senate Appropriations Committee and is currently being discussed on the Senate floor.
Advocates are confident that the piece of legislation will pass. SB 739 is at the forefront of Universal Basic Income initiative, making its potential passing a historic and needed win
“What’s important is that we normalize this issue,” said Assemblymember Evan Lo, another supporter of SB 739.
“We are all part of the team, helping to ensure we do not lose anyone—especially our youth aging out of the foster care system. We are here with you, in support,” the lawmaker added.
Priana Aquino is an incoming 4th year at the University of San Francisco, majoring in Business and Minoring in Legal Studies. Upon graduation, she hopes to attend law school and continue her work in uplifting and advocating for communites of color.
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