First-of-its-kind program assists foster young adults in Santa Clara County; offering $1000 a month

Bay Area

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KRON) — The first-of-its-kind “Universal Basic Income” initiative launched in Santa Clara County is set to financially assist young adults who are transitioning out of the foster care system.

Under the pilot program young adults who age out of the foster care system will now receive a $1,000 monthly for the next year.

For 24-year-old Nayeli Grano who is transitioning out of the county’s foster care system, says the new pilot program came at a crucial time where foster young adults, like herself, have been hit hard due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I think its amazing, I think this is a new opportunity for out-coming foster youth to just grow,” said Grano.

“If it was hard before to achieve our dreams now with this pandemic is even harder or to even think that we can possibly do something.”

Uncertainty over future

Grano says individuals in the foster care system are uncertain if they will receive any assistance as the county has focused much of its attention on stopping the spread of COVID-19.

“Not only do foster youth work minimum wage jobs and now with the pandemic a lot of those jobs are the ones that people lost,” said Grano.

Grano tells KRON4 although she is not yet part of the UBI program, she understands the struggles foster youth and young adults face to garner any sort of assistance.

“Me just knowing that I am going to be hopefully getting something when I turn 25 makes me feel more relaxed.”

“It helps a lot knowing that we’re going to be able to pay rent or pay things that we need for school … this just opens the door to new things.”

“Universal Basic Income”

Giséle Huff, president of San Francisco-based nonprofit Gerald Huff Fund for Humanity was instrumental in assisting Supervisor Cortese in bringing the first-of-its-kind UBI program to Santa Clara County.

In memory of Huff’s late son — the nonprofit is dedicated to bringing awareness on the concept of Universal Basic Income as a transitional solution to current societal issues.

“We’re looking for it to be a federal program that is implemented so that every American gets a $1,000 a month from the age of 18 on,” said Huff.

“Knowing that you have that floor … gives you the kind of freedom to pursue your dreams especially when you are a young person.”

Brighter future

For Grano and for many foster youth in the system express a desire to pursue a higher education in hopes to one day help out others with similar upbringings.

Grano is currently majoring in sociology and minoring in psychology at San Jose City College.

“I plan to be a probation officer because my passion is to help youth realize their full potential,” said Grano.

“I want them to realize that just because we come from a certain background doesn’t mean that we have to stay there and that we’re not going to achieve anything more … because we definitely can.”

Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors approved the program last month after the board initially told Supervisor Cortese the county will not be pursuing any new initiatives due to the pandemic.

Supervisor Cortese grew up in San Jose and says he understands the importance of assisting young people especially those who are transitioning out of foster care.

“Youth that are 21 through about 24 maybe 25 coming out of foster families who are now transitioning to the wide world out there are really in struggle right now — they have struggled for years,” said Cortese.

“We’re very excited .. I think it’s going to empower them and give them the ability to start making better decisions and good decisions about how to invest their own money.”

In an effort to get the much needed money into the hands of the participating 72 foster young adults — the county will not require them to complete any additional steps to receive their funds.

The UBI program will use $900,000 in funding through the county’s general fund to assist the participating young adults with no requirements on how they can spend their money.

“We’re not going to tell them what they have to do or how they have to do it specifically because that’s arguably been a failure of the system when we start getting too restrictive about what people should do with their social services benefits,” said Cortese.

In addition to the $1,000 a month the 72 young adults in the program will be given — the county will also offer financial coaching in partnership with MyPath and Excite Credit Union.

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