Cortese Proposes Checks for Low-income, Homeless High School Seniors

As efforts to provide a guaranteed income spring up around California, Sen. Dave Cortese has set his sights on low-income high school seniors on the brink of adulthood.

The Campbell Democrat and former Santa Clara County supervisor is sponsoring a bill for the state to give no-strings-attached checks to about 15,000 high school seniors who have experienced homelessness, starting from around the time of graduation to their fall enrollment in college or vocational school or their entry into the workforce.

About 183,000 California K-12 students were homeless at some point during the 2020-21 school year, according to the California Department of Education.

The proposed legislation does not specify how high school seniors would apply for the payments or how much they would be. Cortese said he’s hoping the pilot program would offer $1,000 monthly checks for four or five months for the 2023 graduating class, possibly costing the state about $85 million a year.

The legislation passed out of the Senate Education Committee April 6 with little opposition and heads to the Senate Human Services Committee. The bill arose from an original idea to pilot a basic income program at select California State University campuses, where nearly 11% of students reported experiencing homelessness in 2018.

Cortese said he’s proposing it for graduating high school seniors instead to avoid interfering with students’ financial aid calculations. The bill could help students living in poverty rent an apartment or pay for food during college if they enroll, but there’s no requirement to do so.

Christina Torrez, a Bakersfield College student and former foster youth who experienced homelessness in high school, told lawmakers last week that a basic income program would allow students to concentrate on their schooling.

“Honestly, school wasn’t important to me at the time, because I had to figure out where I was going to eat, where I was going to sleep,” Torrez said. “What this does, it allows a whole burden to come off a youth that is homeless.”

It’s the latest guaranteed income proposal for California, which has seen several local governments start pilots after a highly publicized experiment in Stockton from 2019 to 2021 giving 125 families $1,000 each month.

The aim is to alleviate poverty and give recipients more flexibility on how to spend the money than is offered by traditional social services. Critics have raised concerns the checks would discourage work.

Early results of the Stockton study found full-time employment increased 12% in the full year and participants reported less financial instability and improved health outcomes. Former Stockton mayor Michael Tubbs is now an adviser to Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Many of the local efforts are privately funded, but some cities are using federal COVID-19 relief funds.

Last year, lawmakers put $35 million in the state budget to create the nation’s first state-funded program. The California Department of Social Services is preparing to allocate the funds to cities and counties to send out checks to residents, prioritizing former foster youth or expectant mothers. It hasn’t begun taking applications yet.

Cortese said he’s looking for ways to incrementally expand the program toward other groups who could use a “soft landing” on the path toward financial independence, such as high school seniors.

“My vision is that you start installing guaranteed income at the proper point in a person’s life,” to avoid the need for them to cycle through shelters, he said.

“It feels a lot more like a movement,” Cortese said of basic income efforts across the state. “I just need to come back each legislative session and try to add another brick in the wall.”


  1. Cortese is free to send his own Personal Checks from his own personal savings to anyone he wants.
    Do Not keep playing free & loose with taxpayer dollars.

    The pain is real, recession forecasts are growing and soaring ‘Biden-flation’ is at 40 year highs.

    Today the White House warned of ‘extraordinarily elevated’ March inflation, and Economists say the annual inflation rate could be close to 8.5%, the highest seen since late 1981.

    February 2022 inflation numbers were already brutal,

    “Producer prices increased a blistering 10% PPI for the year ending in February,
    according to Bureau of Labor Statistics, the HIGHEST on record.”
    which “…signals More PAIN to come for households.
    The PPI gauges the wholesale prices of goods, which are eventually passed down to consumers.”

    “The news came just days after a report for the month of February found
    consumer prices (CPI) increased by 7.9% – the FASTEST Annual Rate in 4 Decades.”

  2. Sure, let’s buy their votes, the minute they turn 18 by playing Santa Claus. Let me guess, they get their check as soon as they sign the pre-filled voter registration card.

    Democrats are really amazing. They don’t even have to try to hide who/what they are in CA anymore.

  3. Why get a job like many of us did in late high school and in college, when Uncle Dave will just write you a check?
    Most of us like to choose what charities we support. Our taxpayer dollars are not Dave’s or the legislature’s to spend on their favorite charities.
    Fix the potholes, and not with a Caltrans crew of which half spend most of their day standing around holding up a shovel.

  4. All that’s missing is quoting from the late Charles Black (though Erwin Chemerinsky will do as a substitute now). One of his books was a classic liberal (and Democrat, like our subject Cortese here, in states like California and especially in liberal metro areas) argument based on bogus interpretation of the Constitution to arrive at a “right” to a guaranteed minimum income.

    I’m also thinking of that Van Parijs paper’s title, “Why Surfers Should Be Fed.”

  5. I am in favor of Mr. Cortese paying these unfortunate students out of his family’s fortune-only.

    Taxpayers shouldn’t be swayed by any program uttered from the mouth of this perennial goofball.

    In fact, it is past time this political slug be excused by the voters from the public’s payroll.

    David S. Wall

  6. The only reason that this guy got elected was because he was running against someone that voiced support for the judge that reduced the rapist Brock Turner’s sentence.

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