The Los Angeles program received $38 million from the city. A small portion of the money comes from private funds.

According to city data, one-third of adults in Los Angeles are unable to support their families on income from full-time work alone.

“When you provide resources to families that are struggling, it can give them the breathing room to realize goals that many of us are fortunate enough to take for granted,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said when the program began.

That breathing room came at an opportune time for Ms. Barajas. After graduating from high school in 2017, she pushed aside dreams of college and began working a string of retail gigs — Claire’s, Old Navy, Walmart. She set aside $300 from her paycheck each month to help cover her family’s rent.

“I had to work,” she said. “We had no foundation, no money in our pockets.”

Last year, Ms. Barajas, 22, received funds from an extension of the child tax credit. She used some of the money for essentials like clothes and food.

On a recent afternoon in Chatsworth, a Los Angeles neighborhood, Ms. Barajas reflected on how the money from the guaranteed income program was helping her stay afloat. She moved out of her mother’s apartment in April, after an argument. Since then, she and her daughter, now 15 months old, have slept on friends’ couches and sometimes stayed at pay-by-the-week motels.

For now, they are living at a 90-day shelter for women and children. Ms. Barajas hopes to attend community college this fall, but is focused first on finding a job. Many mornings, she scrolls her iPhone looking at postings before her daughter wakes up.

Most of the money from the guaranteed-income payments goes toward food, diapers and clothing, but she’s trying to save several hundred dollars, enough for a security deposit for an apartment she hopes to move into with a friend.

“I’m one emergency away from having to spend money and then live on the streets and become homeless,” she said. “A lot of people are just hanging on with the smallest amount of wiggle room financially.”

Zohna Everett, who was part of the Stockton program, knows how it feels to live within that razor-thin margin.

Before the program began in 2019, she was driving for DoorDash five days a week, bringing in about $100 a day. Her husband at the time worked as a truck driver, and the rent for their two-bedroom apartment was $1,000. To help earn gas money, Ms. Everett sometimes collected recyclables and turned them in for cash.

“The money was a godsend,” Ms. Everett said of the Stockton program, adding that while enrolled in it, she got a contract job at the Tesla factory in Fremont, Calif., on a production line.

Until then, Ms. Everett, 51, had been in a perpetual state of hustle, never stopping long enough to realize her exhaustion. After the payments started, she noticed she was sleeping better than she had in years.

“A weight truly was lifted from me,” she said.

The payments stopped during the pandemic, but she then received stimulus money from the federal government. She had started to save some money, but after a case of Covid left her with persistent fatigue and breathing problems, she recently took a leave from her Tesla job.

“With this pandemic, there is a lot of struggling,” she said. “There needs to be a permanent solution to help people.”

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How Do Japanese Show They Care? By Sending a Telegram.

TOKYO — When he got married this summer, Hiroshi Kanno, who works at a security services firm in Tokyo, wanted to make a big statement that would impress his future in-laws.

So he asked for his company’s president to send a congratulatory telegram.

It arrived during the wedding party and was read aloud. “It really pumped up the atmosphere,” Mr. Kanno, 33, said. “I felt like a celebrity,” added his wife, Asuka, a 31-year-old office administrator. They posted photos of that message and another wedding telegram on Twitter, along with the his-and-her Hello Kitty dolls that were delivered with the notes.

The telegram, a form of communication associated more with the Roaring ’20s than the 2020s, has kept a foothold in Japan, where millions of the messages still crisscross the nation every year, carrying articulations of celebration, mourning and thanks.

ended its service in 2006. India, one of the last major national holdouts, shut down its state-run service in 2013 after 162 years.

The telegram services that remain have changed greatly since Samuel Morse’s invention of the telegraph put the Pony Express out of business.

Today, messages are mostly composed online and transmitted digitally before being printed out and hand delivered. In Japan, senders can choose from among a variety of fonts and elegant card stocks and select an accompanying gift from catalogs full of luxury goods and branded items — Disney and Hello Kitty are popular. Flowers or stuffed animals are common choices for weddings, incense sticks for funerals.

Payment schemes have also evolved: Instead of being charged by the character, as in the old days, customers are billed at a fixed rate for a fixed number of characters, and pay extra if they go over.

The telegram’s essence, however, has remained: a concise message printed on a small card and (relatively) swiftly delivered.

The telegram’s transformation into a vessel of etiquette was a decades-long process. Telegram use peaked in Japan in 1963, when the medium — then considered the gold standard for urgent communication — was used to send around 95 million messages, according to a government report assessing the recent state of the industry.

By the 1990s, telegram traffic had nearly halved. At the same time, the messages’ content had undergone an unexpected evolution: Nearly all of them conveyed congratulations or condolences.

In 2020, the most recent year for which data is available, more than four million telegrams were delivered in Japan. That makes it the third largest market for the medium behind Russia and Italy, according to statistics provided by International Telegram, a private firm that provides telegram services worldwide. (In the United States, fewer than a million telegrams are sent annually, the company said.)

The bulk of telegrams in Japan are sent by Nippon Telegraph and Telephone, known as NTT. The company, which started life as a state-owned entity, was given an effective monopoly on the telegram business when it was privatized in 1985. In exchange, the company had to guarantee that it would provide the service indefinitely.

Under NTT’s monopoly, the industry stagnated, and the company’s profits from it eventually vanished. But as government overhauls opened the business to competition in the past two decades, a number of small companies sprang up, introducing innovations like online ordering that have helped the industry survive.

For these firms, telegrams remain a moneymaking niche business.

Keisuke Yamamoto, the president of Roys International, started his company 15 years ago. At the time, he was working in licensing and had noticed a growing demand for telegrams that featured popular brands and characters like Peter Rabbit and Paddington Bear.

At the time, the market was 45 billion yen, he said, or about $325 million in today’s money, and he realized that “snagging even just 1 percent of that would make a successful business.”

He set out to differentiate his company, he said, by pairing the messages with gifts that would appeal to a younger generation. “It worked,” he said. “NTT has stolen our ideas over the years.”

The pandemic has hurt telegram traffic as people have avoided large events like weddings and funerals, but customers have become more likely to send telegrams with expensive presents, said Toshihiko Fujisaki, who heads the corporate planning department at Sagawa Humony, a company that offers telegram services.

The company has tried to bring young people onboard, giving university students the opportunity to experience ordering a telegram. It is also working on a smartphone app.

“Young people don’t know telegrams. They’re used to smartphones,” Mr. Fujisaki said. But compared with getting an email or a text message, “there’s a lot more emotion when you get a telegram.”

For those unfamiliar with the protocol, telegram companies offer online primers on sending messages for a variety of occasions. For weddings, guests should avoid using punctuation, because it could signify bringing something to an end. Senders are also advised to notify the recipient in advance to avoid any potentially unpleasant surprises.

Even as the broader market for telegrams has shrunk, they have remained popular among corporate clients and politicians, who see them as important tools for keeping up relationships.

Politicians send them not just to constituents but to each other, said Mr. Matsuda, the political consultant.

“They send them to each other when they can’t participate in a fund-raising event or when their colleagues get appointed to an important post,” he said.

Mr. Yamaguchi’s scandal, however, may have cooled that enthusiasm. During a recent talk show appearance, Toshinao Sasaki, a freelance journalist and political commentator, said the Unification Church controversy could finally end politicians’ love affair with the telegram.

“Times have changed,” he said, adding, “I think it’s the beginning of the end.”

For Asuka and Hiroshi Kanno, though, the telegram remains something to cherish. They proudly display their wedding telegrams in their living room, and Ms. Kanno said she planned to send one when her own future child gets married.

Still, the couple would never think to send a telegram under other circumstances, she said. When it comes to events like birthdays, “I’d probably go digital.”

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