Largest Guaranteed Income Program Launched In Illinois

A new pilot program in Illinois’ largest county–the second largest in the country–will provide some residents guaranteed income as the state works to even out the economic recovery for those disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. 

Applications for Cook County’s “Promise Guaranteed Income” pilot program, which will provide monthly payments of $500 to 3,250 eligible households for two years, opened Thursday, according to a statement from the county, which includes the city of Chicago. The pilot program is the latest in a growing trend of basic-income programs that provide participants with monthly payments for a set amount of time. 

“After months of hard work, Cook County is proud to be launching the application portal for the largest publicly-funded guaranteed income pilot in American history,” County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said in a statement. 

In order to qualify for the program, a one-person household would need to make less than $33,975 and a family of four less than $69,375. About 36% of households are eligible based on those qualifications. The payments won’t be taxed and people can apply regardless of citizenship status. However, persons who are a part of any other basic-income pilot program, such as the one currently underway by the city of Chicago, won’t be eligible to apply. 

The $42 million program is funded by the American Rescue Plan Act, which was passed by the White House to provide relief to those directly affected by the pandemic. Preckwinkle stated that the county intends to continue funding the program beyond the pilot phase using its own budget and philanthropic contributions.

“Historically, both public and private institutions have been unwilling to directly invest in low- and moderate-income people without significant restrictions in place. This is a misconception and terrible bias in which past governments have taken part,” Preckwinkle tweeted.

“Rather, decades of research show that people spend cash benefits wisely, leading to more financial stability as well as improved physical, emotional and social outcomes,” she added.

The county expects to make its first payments in December and recipients will be free to spend the money however they see fit.

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