California Guaranteed Income Pilot Program: Preliminary Information for Prospective Applicants

Prospective applicants (Guaranteed Income pilot programs) will be selected for funding through a Request for Applications (RFA) process scheduled to post in Spring 2022. The information below reflects a preliminary version of the RFA guidelines. Please note that the details in this document are subject to change. The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) is providing this information in advance to help potential applicants prepare for the RFA release. Note that the guidelines in the RFA will supersede the information in this document. Prospective applicants are also encouraged to complete this brief, nonbinding and nonmandatory form indicating their intent to apply by 5 p.m. Pacific Time on March 25, 2022:

Purpose and Scope

Welfare and Institutions Code (WIC) sections 18997-18997.2 authorize the CDSS to administer the California Guaranteed Income Pilot Program. The purpose of this program is to provide grants to eligible entities to administer pilot programs and projects that provide a guaranteed income to participants. Guaranteed income programs traditionally provide unconditional, individual, regular cash payments intended to support the basic needs of the recipients.

The budget for this program is anticipated to be $35 million over five years. This funding will be used for grants to eligible entities to enable or expand pilot programs across the state, as well as for the administration and evaluation of these pilot programs to inform future policy decisions.

The CDSS will prioritize funding for pilot programs and projects that serve California residents who either age out of the extended foster care program at or after 21 years of age or who are pregnant.

Equity Considerations

The CDSS believes that guaranteed income can be a tool to advance equity for communities that have been disproportionately impacted by poverty and wealth disparities. The CDSS will work in partnership with the prospective applicant to surface and address equity-related considerations for participants in terms of race; ethnicity; gender; Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual (LGBTQIA) identity; age; disability; housing status; language; immigration status; justice involvement; rural or urban location; and/or other factors. The CDSS encourages the prospective applicant to embed an equity-focused approach throughout each dimension of the participant experience, including in outreach, the application process, eligibility, support services, research, experience with the disbursement of guaranteed income payments, and program exits.

Program Considerations

Based on input from stakeholders throughout the state, the CDSS has identified several considerations that will guide all aspects of the funding, research, and administration of this pilot program:

  • Demonstrate proof of concept for guaranteed income, specifically the impact of maximizing income on self-sufficiency and wellness outcomes.
  • Encourage partnership with other organizations to understand how guaranteed income interacts with other programs; including but not limited to Medi-Cal, CalFresh, CalWORKs, and childcare subsidies.
  • Center equity and community voice in pilot program design, administration, and evaluation.
  • Wherever possible, reduce barriers to access and prioritize low-burden methods for eligibility verification, research participation, and payment.

Applicant Eligibility

  • Organization types: Any public or private nonprofit entity in good standing and authorized to do business in California, as well as any tribal or local government entity is eligible to apply for the program.
    • Partnerships across organizations are encouraged, but a single Lead Applicant should be designated.
    • Applicants will be required to coordinate with the respective county welfare agency regarding the impacts on benefits or if an exemption of income for other benefits must be requested.
    • The CDSS recommends a letter of acknowledgement from the county as part of the application; however, this letter does not need to come from a Board of Supervisors (e.g. letter from county welfare department official). Note that to pursue an income exemption request for CalFresh, participant guaranteed income payments must come in part from a philanthropic or other private source.
  • Pilot program types: Both existing and new guaranteed income programs are eligible to apply for funding. Existing programs may need to adapt or expand in order to meet all requirements detailed in the upcoming RFA, including participation in the statewide evaluation.

Funding Parameters

  • Maximum funding request - Applicants may request between $2 million and $5 million in total funding (for up to a three-year grant period) and will be required to provide a rationale/justification for the award amount requested. Award amounts will be related to the number of individuals served – each applicant must include the cost of program administration per participant served. Please note that funds will be awarded at the sole discretion of the CDSS and the CDSS reserves the right to award grants that fall below or exceed this range if CDSS deems it appropriate. For example, CDSS may consider grant awards of less than $2 million if there is a limit to the funding match that the applicant can secure.
  • Funding period - Applicants can receive funds for up to a three-year period, including funding for planning and for a recommended 18 months of direct disbursement.
  • Funding match – Applicants must be funded with a match equal to or greater than 50 percent of the amount of funding to be provided by the State. The match may consist of or include a grant received from another source. If a match is not identified at the time of application, applicants may share their plan for securing a match and the CDSS may offer conditional approval of funding contingent upon a secured match.

Program Requirements

  • Individuals served – The CDSS recommends that applicants aim to serve a minimum of 150 participants. If applicants propose serving fewer individuals, applicants will need to provide justification for the number of individuals proposed. The CDSS shall ensure that grant funds are awarded in an equitable manner to eligible entities in both rural and urban counties and in proportion to the number of individuals anticipated to be served by an eligible entity’s pilot program or project.
  • Direct payment amount - The recommended minimum direct payment is $600 per month per individual. There is currently no maximum, though applicants should be cognizant of annual thresholds for gifts per the Internal Revenue Service and any annual income limitations for other benefits. If the proposed direct payment is less than $600 per month, applicants will be asked to provide a justification. All applicants will be asked to justify their decision for the amount and duration of payment, ideally sharing local context and drawing upon the current evidence base. For the purposes of evaluation, the CDSS recognizes that there may be benefits to having a standard disbursement amount across all pilot sites; CDSS may suggest, but not require, some coordination across all pilot sites on a common disbursement amount.
  • Benefits counseling – The CDSS will require pilots to make benefits counseling available to recipients to help enable them to make informed decisions and to enable CDSS to more fully understand the interaction between GI payments and other benefits
  • Other support services - Applicants may provide additional support services to recipients, but they are not required to be provided and must be optional to participants. Examples may include financial counseling/literacy, mental health supports, employment search assistance, and a troubleshooting service or hotline to assist program recipients. CDSS may suggest, but not require, some coordination across all pilot sites to determine which optional services to offer program participants. Any additional services provided to program participants must be reported to CDSS and/or the statewide evaluator (at the individual level). Applicants should ideally have the necessary data infrastructure in place to capture any additional services provided to each participant and be prepared to share these data.
  • Community voice and participation - Applicants are encouraged to engage community members, including members of priority populations, in all aspects of pilot design, implementation, and evaluation.

Evaluation Requirements

  • Participation in statewide evaluation - Pilot programs will be required to participate in statewide evaluation activities, which may include, but are not limited to, administering informed consent processes, collecting data for the implementation and/or impact evaluations, recruiting research participants, conducting a warm hand-off to the evaluator for research activities such as surveys and/or interviews, and participating in learning communities if needed. For more information on the statewide evaluation, please see the Request for Information linked here:
  • Evaluation readiness – Applications will be assessed based in part on experience with and readiness to take part in a rigorous evaluation, which may require a particular system (e.g., lottery) for participant selection/randomized controlled trial design. Applicants should also ideally be equipped with any necessary data infrastructure to securely track and share participant information including Personal Identifiable Information.
  • Evaluation partners - Applicants are welcome, but not required, to partner with a local evaluator to conduct research and evaluation activities related to their pilot. Separately, the CDSS will have a statewide evaluation partner, or multiple partners, who can provide evaluation technical assistance to pilots, regardless of whether pilots have already partnered with other evaluators. All pilots will be required to collaborate with the statewide evaluator(s).

Recipient Eligibility

The CDSS provides these guidelines to define recipient eligibility, with an emphasis on low burden approaches for potential recipient applicants.

  • Income: Applicants shall target low-income individuals for receipt of the guaranteed income. CDSS is exploring the following approaches for prioritizing low-income recipients:
    1. Income threshold based on geography, e.g. any individual residing in selected low-income neighborhoods or zip codes within your city or county;
    2. Income threshold based on individual or household income, e.g. any resident of your city or county who earns below a predetermined income threshold; or
    3. Other approaches, e.g. income threshold based on eligibility for other types of benefits programs such as CalFresh or CalWORKs.
  • Priority Populations: Applicants shall prioritize serving members of the priority populations (California residents who age out of the extended foster care program at or after 21 years of age or who are pregnant.) In assessing proposals, the CDSS will give primary consideration to pilots that plan to ensure that a majority of recipients include the priority populations. While the CDSS will prioritize funding for pilots that focus on serving priority populations, programs that have already launched without this focus may still be eligible and will be asked to outline any plans for incorporating priority populations into the expansion of their program. The CDSS is not precluding the possibility of funding pilots that do not serve the priority populations, but this may depend upon the applications received.
  • Eligibility verification: The CDSS encourages applicants to consider strategies for reducing verification burdens, such as: verifying recipients’ income eligibility directly with governmental sources, using the same eligibility and verification requirements as an existing program (e.g. CalWORKs and CalFresh), providing multiple venues for providing verification (e.g. in person, online, by mail), allowing multiple entities to share eligibility information rather than relying on the client, designing a user-friendly platform / webpage for providing verification, self-attestation or certification, etc.