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A temporary guaranteed income could be on its way for up to 150 artists in Long Beach.

The City Council is set to consider next week whether to direct the city manager to look into creating a fund that “would provide emergency $500 direct or other financial support for a period of six months to cover the cost of basic needs” for artists who have been financially hit by the coronavirus, according to a staff report.

Mayor Robert Garcia, who’s a member of the nationwide “Mayors for a Guaranteed Income” initiative, proposed the idea, which the council will consider at its Tuesday, Nov. 17, meeting.

“We know that the arts have been one of the areas hardest hit by the pandemic,” he said in a Tuesday, Nov. 10, statement. “With events coming to a halt in March, there is no doubt that these workers are struggling. This new guaranteed income program would help our artists support their basic needs and make it through this difficult period.”

Garcia’s proposal would use CARES Act Community Block Grant Funds, from the federal government, to finance the program, which the staff report said would fund “up to 150 artists who qualify across the city.”

Beyond that, there are few details about what the possible program would look like, including how artists would qualify. That’s because the city manager would have to figure out the specifics and bring the actual program back to the council to approve.

But next week’s item directing the city manager to look into creating such a fund comes two months after the council voted in support of a potential universal basic income pilot program that would test out giving monthly cash payments to residents; the council also directed the city manager to seek grants and private foundation support to fund a pilot program.

That program will likely launch next year, according to Garcia’s office.

Garcia said during the Sept. 1 council meeting that even as the city looks beyond the coronavirus pandemic, a universal basic income could prepare Long Beach’s residents to weather other crises that lay ahead.

“The future with automation is in front of us, and other crises ahead of us like climate change are going to disrupt the economy,” he said, “and Long Beach has always led the way with innovative solutions, so I am excited to pilot this.”

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