A new guaranteed income program in Cook County, Illinois, will provide thousands of low-income residents with $500 a month in funds that families will be able to spend however they see fit.
Applications for the pilot, called the Cook County Promise program, opened last Thursday and will remain open until October 21.
It is the largest publicly funded basic income pilot in the U.S., 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 $500 payments to 3,250 residents with a household income at or below 250% of the federal poverty level for two years. That means a single resident making less than $33,975 per year would qualify. A four-person family with a household income under $69,375 would be eligible.
Roughly 36% of Cook County residents are expected to be eligible to receive funds.
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 disbursed in December. Recipients may chose to receive the funds via direct deposit or a prepaid debit cards.
Experiments in guaranteed income, sometimes called basic income,, sprouting in cities and counties across the U.S. in recent years.
Michael Tubbs, the former mayor of Stockton, California, and the founder of Mayors for a Guaranteed Income, launched the first mayor-led guaranteed income demonstration in the U.S. in February 2019. Stipend recipients reported less income volatility and other positive outcomes, including improved health and well-being and more full-time employment.
"The pandemic really showed people the existing economic arrangement was just not enough," Tubbs told CBS News earlier this year. "With folks not being able to get to work because their businesses were shut down, it showed a guaranteed income is a form of economic resilience and a smart pandemic response."
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