Sunnyvale City Councilmembers Linda Sell and Alysa Cisneros, Vice Mayor Omar Din and Mayor Larry Klein sit in the council chambers.
The Sunnyvale City Council is considering putting a property transfer tax on the November ballot. File photo.

Sunnyvale’s low-income residents might be receiving a financial boost from the city.

The Sunnyvale City Council is looking to pilot a guaranteed income program to support residents who are financially burdened. The councilmembers on Oct. 24 gave input on who the program should be serving, and how they would want it organized. They discussed how long the program should run and how much money would be dispersed to residents. The city council plans to finalize details in the first half of next year.

Vice Mayor Omar Din championed the idea and said he is uplifted by council’s discussion. Future discussions will feature finalizing the target demographics and other key details, but for Din, this program’s success hinges on how people can benefit.

“For me, it’s how were people’s lives changed by the funding they received,” Din told San José Spotlight. “Did it have the impact of preventing poverty or helping people who were falling into poverty.”

City officials have researched other guaranteed income programs, including one launched last year in neighboring Mountain View, which provides $500 monthly checks to 166 people. The two-year pilot program serves families and caregivers with at least one child under age 18 or pregnant women at the time of applying, and those who earn 30% or less than the area median income. In Santa Clara County, 30% of the area median income for a family of four in 2023 is $54,390.

Every councilmember said in the meeting that they are interested in a program that targets low-income families with children, but specifics such as income levels have yet to be determined.

For Mayor Larry Klein, parental assistance is a personal issue, as his family relied on food assistance while growing up. Klein is a member of the national Mayors for a Guaranteed Income coalition.

Klein said he is interested in assisting parents who are attending college, and sees this program as a tool for families in transition. He would like a model that provides recipients with a larger portion of the money up-front and smaller increments monthly, which he said would give people more flexibility in how they use the funds.

“It gives them a little more flexibility to … reduce the income volatility that they may have throughout the year,” Klein told San José Spotlight. “Too many families live paycheck to paycheck.”

The city is still investigating revenue streams for the program. Din said some existing programs have been funded through the American Rescue Plan funding, such as South San Francisco’s Guaranteed Income Pilot Program. But Sunnyvale is looking for a different approach. The city wants to tap philanthropic groups, local business partners or state and county grants. Finalizing the revenue stream will come next year.

The checks from this program would be dispersed through a third-party organization and the city has reached out to Sunnyvale Community Services, which already provides food, housing and financial support to residents in the city. Executive Director Marie Bernard said the organization is ready to partner and acknowledges that administration costs and responsibilities will be high in making sure monies are dispersed properly.

Giving people the ability to determine where their money is spent is an important type of support, Bernard told San José Spotlight.

“It’s time for us to trust people, that they know best but also trust them with these dollars,” Bernard said.

Contact B. Sakura Cannestra at [email protected] or @SakuCannestra on X, formerly known as Twitter.

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