Stockton’s SEED program could give insight into how families will spend stimulus money

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STOCKTON, Calif. (KTXL) -- With federal stimulus money expected to bring a much needed financial relief to many Americans, a pilot program in Stockton may give us a glimpse at how families might spend the money.

Tomas Vargas Jr. said two years ago, the last place he expected to be was speaking candidly to a reporter about how he and his family struggled financially.

“To see my kids and then not know what the next day would be or not know if I was going to be able to provide, or whatever, that was like a big toll,” he told FOX40.

Vargas represents one of the 100 families in Stockton who receives $500 a month in unconditional cash as part of a pilot program known as SEED. The program, which launched in 2019, is a way to measure how a universal basic income would impact low-income families.

“I would sit there and hustle. I would hustle up, doing whatever I had to,” Vargas said.

Vargas said from working part-time and barely making ends meet, he now has a better financial foundation.

“I’m up-to-date with everything, my rent, everything,” Vargas said. “It’s only $500 but it helps when you stretch it, when you know how to work it.”

Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs said Vargas is an example of how various families have chosen to use the money, which is privately funded. 

He said with federal stimulus money expected to help many middle-class families, the government needs to look beyond the COVID-19 crisis.

“People need cash and an income floor to be able to navigate through those times,” Tubbs said.

The SEED money will eventually stop and with the nation in the thick of the COVID-19 pandemic, Vargas faces so much uncertainty. But he said what is different for him now is his outlook on life.

“If there’s a will, there’s a way. So, I mean, I’m gonna get through it,” he said.

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