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Applications now open for city's guaranteed basic income program, offering $500 a month to low-income families

CBS Chicago 4/25/2022

CHICAGO (CBS)-- Applications are open for a new city program meant to bring relief to Chicago families hit hardest through the pandemic. It's one part of Chicago's recovery plan to help communities bounce back.

The city's so-called "Chicago Resilient Communities" pilot program will offer $500 monthly payments to roughly 5,000 low-income families for one year.

The City Council approved the $31.5 million guaranteed basic income program as part of Lightfoot's $16.7 billion budget plan for 2022. It is being funded from the nearly $2 billion in federal COVID relief funding the city received.

Department of Family and Support Services Commissioner Brandie Knazze said there is a true need for this program.

"When you think about prior to COVID, 44% of employed Chicagoans could not make their basic needs met; and so that means that they could not afford things like their rent, clothing, utilities, food," Knazze said.

The city is touting it as one of the largest monthly cash assistance programs in the country, but you have to qualify in order to apply.

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.


Video: Applications now open for city's guaranteed basic income program (CBS Chicago)

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Knazze said direct payments to those in need is a more efficient method of helping them be able to use money freely to meet their specific needs.

"We've seen other studies that have been done in 2020 and '21, that have shown that when you inject cash into a family's household, there are a number of things that happen; and some studies have shown that brain health for babies have improved, as well as child poverty rates have declined, as well as unemployment rates in households," Knazze said.

The programs hopes to reach those experiencing homelessness, undocumented residents, veterans, and low-income families.

The city has chosen international nonprofit GiveDirectly and Denver-based tech platform AidKit to administer the program. YWCA of Metropolitan Chicago, the Center for Changing Lives, Phalanx Family Services, Pui Tak Center, Spanish Coalition for Housing, and the United African Organization to conduct outreach efforts to get eligible Chicagoans to sign up for the program.

Program leaders said more than 61,000 applications already had been submitted in the first few hours of the process.  

The program will accept applications through 11:59 p.m. on May 13 at chicago.gov/cashpilot. Once the application process is closed, a lottery will be held to determine which qualifying applicants will get the $500 monthly payments.

Applications open for Chicago's new income assistance program 01:29 © Provided by CBS Chicago Applications open for Chicago's new income assistance program 01:29
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