Illinois cities including Chicago just started giving some residents $500 every month

Chicago and other Illinois cities are offering some of their residents a guaranteed income in a pilot program as they seek to match the economic recovery of those who took a disproportionate hit from the pandemic.

Applications for Cook County’s “Promise” pilot program opened Thursday and will award 3,250 households monthly payments of $500 each for two years, according to a statement from the county, which includes Chicago. The $42 million program was funded by the more than $1 billion the county received from the American Rescue Plan Act signed by President Joe Biden.

The pilot program is the latest in a growing trend of basic income programs that provide participants with monthly payments over a set period of time. Data has shown that the majority of those enrolled in guaranteed income programs are people of color and low-income single parents, according to Stanford University’s Basic Income Lab.

Other programs include the Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration, in which 125 families in the California city received $500 per month for 24 months. The program was introduced by then-Mayor Michael Tubbs in 2019, and early data shows the program helped recipients weather changes in month-to-month income and secure full-time employment. Since then, other programs have been launched in cities such as Los Angeles, New York and Atlanta. At least 20 shows launched last year alone, with a collective budget of at least $35 million

Chicago, the third largest city in the US, never fully recovered from a legacy of segregation that hollowed out parts of the South and West sides, which include the city’s most economically troubled neighborhoods. And the pandemic only exacerbated these inequalities.

To qualify for the program, a one-member household would have to earn less than $33,975, and a family of four, $69,375. About 36 percent of households qualify for that ceiling, Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle said. Payments will not be taxed and can be applied for by individuals regardless of citizenship status. People participating in any other basic income pilot program, such as the one being run by the city of Chicago, are not eligible to apply.

The county expects to make its first payments in December, and recipients can use the funds as they see fit. The independent program launched by Chicago began payments for its program in August. In it, 5,000 households will receive monthly payments of $500 for a year.

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