Illinois Guaranteed Income Program to Give Thousands $500 a Month

A new guaranteed income program in Cook County, Illinois will provide thousands of low-income residents with $500 a month in funds that families can spend as they see fit.

Applications for the pilot project, called the Cook County Promise program, opened last Thursday and will remain open through October 21.

It is the largest state-funded basic income pilot project in the United States, with the $42 million in funds for the program coming from the Biden administration’s American Rescue Plan Act, which allocated $1 billion to the county that includes the city of Chicago.

The program will send monthly payments of $500 to 3,250 residents whose household income is at or below 250% of the federal poverty level for two years. This means that a single resident earning less than $33,975 per year would qualify. A family of four with a household income of less than $69,375 would qualify.

About 36% of Cook County residents are expected to be eligible to receive funds.

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Chicago pilot program underway

A separate $31.5 million guaranteed income pilot called the Chicago Resilient Communities Pilot is already underway in Chicago. Participating families are not eligible to receive funds from the “Promise” program.

The first “Promise” payments will be made in December. Recipients can choose to receive funds by direct deposit or prepaid debit card.

Guaranteed income experiments, sometimes called basic income, have gained popularitysprouting up in cities and counties across the United States in recent years.

Michael Tubbs, former mayor of Stockton, California, and founder of Mayors for a Guaranteed Income, launched the first mayoral-led guaranteed income demonstration in the United States in February 2019. Benefit recipients reported less volatility income and other positive outcomes, including improved health and well-being and more full-time jobs.

“The pandemic has really shown people that the existing economic arrangement just isn’t good enough,” Tubbs told CBS News earlier this year. “People not being able to get to work because their businesses have been closed has shown that a guaranteed income is a form of economic resilience and a smart response to the pandemic.”