HPRI Symposium: Guaranteed Income

April 23, 2024
Virtual Webinar

While guaranteed income and cash transfer programs have existed in other portions of the world, such as Latin America, since the 1980s (Fotta and Schmidt, 2023), the discussion of Universal Basic Income in the 2020 presidential debates and the widespread financial need triggered by the pandemic brought these concepts popular attention in America (guaranteedincome.us).  The broad category of cash transfers (direct transfer of money to a target population) can be offered with or without behavioral conditions, with guaranteed income programs representing a subset of unconditional cash transfer programs that make consistent payments on a regular basis, with no strings attached (Center for High Impact Philanthropy, 2024).  The Universal Basic Income, an even more specific cash transfer, is differentiated by its unconditionality and universality – “a periodic cash payment to all residents in a jurisdiction, without obligation” (Lee, 2021).  These approaches show great promise in poverty alleviation by providing recipients autonomy over their spending, as well as other associated benefits like increased food security, improved health care, and spillover benefits like improved local economic activity (Stedman, 2023).  Such benefits could be particularly reparative for communities of color in Los Angeles, who are more likely to live below the federal poverty line than white counterparts (Ending Poverty Summit, 2024), and for the Black and Latinx population which continue to be overrepresented in experiences of homelessness (LAHSA, 2023).  Given the potential positive impacts for Black, Latinx, and indigenous populations, many see guaranteed income as a potential vehicle for reparations (The California Reparations Report, 2023).

How can these programs impact people experiencing housing insecurity or homelessness?  What sums of unconditional money could prevent vulnerable populations from falling into homelessness?  What other benefits are guaranteed income pilots uncovering in their evaluations?  Would it be more helpful in fighting homelessness to use a universal approach like UBI rather than targeted guaranteed income?  What are the most effective ways to utilize cash transfers to stabilize housing?  This symposium explored these questions and more, learning about a cash transfer pilot program that targets people experiencing homelessness from Denver known as the Denver Basic Income Project and LA City’s effort to facilitate and evaluate a basic income program for families living in poverty known as the Big Leap!



Bo-Kyung Elizabeth Kim – Associate Professor, UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, Department of Community Health Sciences

Dr. Bo-Kyung Elizabeth Kim is an Associate Professor at UCLA Fielding School of Public Health in the Department of Community Health Sciences. Her work seeks to bridge the research-practice gap in community-based service delivery models addressing the mental, emotional, and behavioral health needs of youth in and at-risk for being involved in the juvenile justice system. Over the years, her research has evolved from universal approaches to community-based prevention to directly challenging systemic inequity (e.g., racial and socioeconomic). Her research has been funded by the National Institute of Justice, National Institute of Health, City of Los Angeles, and Foundations. In collaboration with the UPenn Center for Guaranteed Income Research, Dr. Kim is currently serving as the site-PI for BIG:LEAP, a randomized controlled trial testing the effect of guaranteed income among families living in the City of Los Angeles.


Aaron Strauss – Senior Program Manager, Office of Community Wealth, City of Los Angeles Community Investment for Families Department(CIFD)

Aaron Strauss is the Senior Program Manager for the Office of Community Wealth at the City of Los Angeles Community Investment for Families Department (CIFD). He spearheads a portfolio of financial empowerment and anti-poverty programs, including BIG:LEAP, LA’s Guaranteed Income Pilot program. Prior to joining CIFD, Aaron was a Policy Analyst within the New York City Mayor’s Office of Operations, improving the effectiveness of programs through implementation of interagency and mayoral initiatives. He covered policy areas such as local media, temporary housing, demographic data collection, traffic safety, and COVID-19 vaccinations. He was born and raised in Los Angeles and attended Cornell University, earning his degree in Economics and Spanish.


Daniel Brisson – Professor, Director, Center for Housing and Homelessness Research (CHHR), Graduate School of Social Work, University of Denver

Dr. Daniel Brisson is Professor, and the Director of the Center for Housing and Homelessness Research (CHHR) at the Graduate School of Social Work, University of Denver. Dr. Brisson is currently Principal Investigator of the Denver Basic Income Project (DBIP), and studies on trauma informed design in permanent supportive housing. Dr. Brisson’s research focuses on poverty, high-poverty neighborhoods, affordable housing, and homelessness. Dr. Brisson has ongoing community partnerships around Colorado and the country with social service providers and other stakeholders interested in addressing challenges related to poverty. Dr. Brisson has written extensively on the role of neighborhood social cohesion as a mediator for the health and well-being of families living in high-poverty neighborhoods. Currently, Dr. Brisson is focusing on community partnerships with affordable housing providers engaged in trauma informed design and guaranteed basic income programs.

Dr. Brisson teaches research methods, statistics, and macro social work practice with a focus on poverty alleviation.


Mark Donovan – Founder and Executive Director, Denver Basic Income Project

Mark Donovan is the Founder and Executive Director of the Denver Basic Income Project. He is a Denver based entrepreneur and philanthropist. He received a B.A. in Economics from Harvard and is a graduate of the National Outdoor Leadership School. In 1992 Mark co-founded Wooden Ships Knits, a Bali based women’s sweater brand. He studies, practices and teaches the principles of Lean (The Toyota Production System). In 2020 he founded the Denver Basic Income Project to advance the use of guaranteed income to invest in people and their ability to thrive when given trust, hope, and a financial foundation. Mark is the father of three boys, an avid skier and outdoorsman who also loves to play the piano and guitar. He is committed to fighting all forms of injustice and protecting our planet for future generations.


Maria Sierra – Community Engagement Manager, Denver Basic Income Project

Maria Sierra is an experienced professional working with those experiencing homelessness and has over 25 years of experience working in nonprofit service organizations and low-income housing. Helping individuals overcome obstacles and difficulties and making the most of themselves is a gratifying yet challenging career. Maria has a thorough knowledge of housing and social service systems and a unique perspective and understanding of the struggle individuals and families often face with meeting their basic needs. What drives her is the desire for the people she works with to EXPERIENCE life truly and not just navigate through their struggles.

Maria holds a bachelor’s degree in Chicano Studies/Human Services from the Metropolitan State University of Denver.


Moriah Rodriguez – Participant, Denver Basic Income Project

My name is Moriah Rodriguez, I was born and raised all throughout Denver, Colorado. Growing up I was involved in community and the movement for change. I am a mother of Four children. I sit on the mental health Advisory Committee and also a council member of the Developmental disability Council.


Guest Moderator:

Soomi Lee – Professor and Director, Master of Public Administration program, University of La Verne

Soomi Lee is a Professor and Director of the Master of Public Administration program at the University of La Verne, with a Ph.D. in Economics and Political Science from Claremont Graduate University. Her expertise lies in public policy, public finance, and urban economics. Her contributions have been published in top academic journals, including Urban Studies, Urban Affairs Review, Regional Studies, Journal of Socioeconomics, State Politics and Policy Quarterly, Public Finance Review, and Basic Income Studies.


Full Event Recording: https://youtu.be/J703_g4T9cg

Si quieres usar subtítulos, haz clic en el ícono “CC” en la parte inferior derecha del video.  Para cambiar el idioma de los subtítulos, haz clic en el ícono de configuraciones y seleccionar la opción de subtítulos donde puedes cambiar el idioma a Español.’


Highlights: https://youtu.be/9B3cki9oM94

Resources for this Symposium

Basic Income Grants to Reduce Homelessness in Los Angeles – Gary Blasi, Benjamin Henwood, Sam Tsemberis, Dan Flaming

Guaranteed Income and Homelessness Landscape Analysis – Erika Rogers

Universal Basic Income – Essential Knowledge – Karl Widerquist

Basic Income: A Guide for the Open-Minded – Guy Standing

What is a Basic Income Guarantee? – USBIG

Additional videos, organizations, journals, and essays about basic income programs

Slides from the Symposium presentations

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