Chicago, IL

90,000 Chicago families applied for the city's basic income program in one day

Jennifer Geer

But only 5,000 Chicagoans will be accepted in the $500 direct monthly payment program.

(CHICAGO) According to WTTW Chicago, on Wednesday, April 27, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced that over 90,000 applications had been received for the city's basic income pilot program.

However, the program only has enough funding ($31.5 million) to send 5,000 families a direct check for $500 per month for one year.

Lightfoot told WTTW the demand for help far exceeds the means, “People in this city are hurting badly,” she said. “This is an emergency.”

Who is eligible for the program?

You must be a resident of Chicago, older than 18, live in a household that earns no more than $69,375 for a family of four (250% of the federal poverty level), and have experienced, "hardship due to COVID-19."

Why is Chicago piloting a basic income program?

The "Chicago Resilient Communities" pilot program is meant to provide help to struggling families that have been hit hard by the pandemic.

According to the program's website, "17% of all Chicagoans live in poverty, and the percent is even higher in Black and Latino communities. In 2017, 44% of Chicagoans could not afford basic needs, and that was before the COVID-19 pandemic caused widespread and sustained job losses, health risks, and increased caregiving responsibilities."

Free gas and CTA cards are on the horizon.

Additionally, Mayor Lightfoot's free gas program narrowly passed a vote with the City Council on Wednesday. The program will provide 50,000 gas cards at $150 each and 100,000 Chicago Transit Authority fare cards at $50 each.

There was debate before the vote, as some alderman complained the program is a "political gimmick" and won't provide much help to Chicago residents.

However, on a Twitter post, Mayor Lightfoot recounted her family's struggles as she grew up and the difficulty of filling up the car with gas. "My family always struggled financially & it was rare that we had enough money to fill up a whole tank of gas & many times, we had to cobble together dollars to keep the car running," she said. "When we did not have enough, we had to borrow from someone or try to carpool."

Where to apply

The city will accept applications for the basic income program through May 13 at chicago.gov/cashpilot.

Details on how to apply for the gas and transit cards are not yet available.

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Jennifer covers lifestyle content and local news for the Chicago area. New articles published each weekday.

Chicago, IL
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