Chicago’s guaranteed income pilot program


CHICAGO (CBS) — The city’s first ever guaranteed basic income program will launch in April, with a lottery to determine which 5,000 low-income families in Chicago will get monthly $500 checks for one year.

“Today’s announcement is all about supporting our residents who are still struggling to make ends meet,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said in a statement. “Our innovative, monthly cash assistance program will help to stabilize and ensure the wellbeing of residents that have been struggling both before and during the pandemic. I am dedicated to continuing to bring relief to our city’s hardest-hit communities and look forward to rolling out this new initiative as soon as possible alongside our newest fines and fees reforms and other Chicago Recovery Plan priorities.

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The City Council approved a $31.5 million basic income pilot program as part of Lightfoot’s $16.7 billion budget plan for 2022, and the mayor announced Thursday the city will begin accepting applications for the program in April at More information is available now at that website, including the option to sign up for an alert when applications are available.

To qualify for the program, residents must have lived in Chicago for at least one year, be 18 years old or older, have experienced economic hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and have a household income below 250% of the federal poverty level. That’s $57,575 for a family of three, according to the mayor’s office.

The city is seeking a non-profit organization to run the program and conduct outreach for enrollment in the guaranteed income pilot. City officials also will partner with the University of Chicago’s Inclusive Economy Lab to evaluate the impact of the program.

Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36th) proposed a guaranteed basic income program last April, but his proposal was bottled up in committee after members of the City Council Black Caucus called for a plan for the city to first pay reparations to the descendants of slaves.

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Lightfoot also opposed the idea at the time Villegas introduced it, but later included a guaranteed income program in her 2022 budget plan.

Meantime, in April the city also will launch a $4.8 million program to offer one-time $500 to domestic workers, as well as a $10.7 million fund to provide one-time $500 payments to Chicagoans who were excluded from previous federal COVID-19 relief payments, including undocumented immigrants.

The city also will kick off the mayor’s newest program to ease the burden of traffic and parking tickets on low-income drivers.

Low-income motorists will be allowed to eliminate old ticket debt by paying off the original fine amount of tickets that have piled up over the last three years, without interest or other late fees. Tickets older than three years would be forgiven.

For those who enroll in the program, they can pay off any new tickets at 50% of the original penalty, and interest and other penalties will not begin to accrue until December 2023.

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The city also will launch a “fix-it” program for expired city stickers or license plate stickers, allowing drivers 30 days to purchase the required sticker within 30 days of getting a ticket without having to pay the penalty.

CBS 2 Chicago Staff