Cook County is looking to implement permanent guaranteed income

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Cook County officials promised to make the largest state-funded guaranteed income experiment permanent on May 18, soon after the initiative was introduced. The trial will begin accepting applicants in the fall.

Cook County Council Chairman Toni Preckwinkle announced that residents of Cook County pilot the nation’s largest taxpayer-funded guaranteed income experiment on May 18, offering residents $500 a month for two years before promising to make the payments permanent.

The Cook County Promise Guaranteed Income Pilot Program will send $42 million to 3,250 randomly selected Cook County residents to study the effect of cash disbursements with the University of Chicago. The program will be funded for the trial period using temporary U.S. bailout dollars received during the pandemic.

Regardless of the outcome of the experiment, Preckwinkle said she promises to make the trial permanent. She told residents the policy is an opportunity for Cook County to become the national leader in state-sponsored revenue.

“Cook County is reframing the way we think about government assistance and is proud to lead the way in America’s guaranteed income movement,” Preckwinkle said.

“Make no mistake: we are interested in long-term solutions to the glaring problem of income inequality. Our promise to residents of Cook County is to make the program permanent in the years to come.

County officials have proposed some specificities on the program’s rollout since the May 18 announcement, saying only that applications will open in the fall, recipients will be chosen at random, and the first payments should arrive before the new year.

In fact, the county is always looking for proposals from agencies and organizations to help administer the program, provide outreach, and guide applicants in person. The county will accept these proposals until June 6.

To be eligible for the pilot, a person must live in Cook County with a household income below 250% of the federal poverty level.

For a three-person household, this means their income must be $57,575 or less, and for a single person, $33,975 or less.

The county program accepts applicants from Chicago as long as they are not already participating in another guaranteed income program in the city. Most of the entrants – who will be selected in a lottery – are expected to come from suburban Cook County.

Chicago’s first guaranteed income pilot passed in October 2021 and also used temporary US bailout funds. Residents enrolled in the program should receive their first checks in the mail this summer.

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