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Citywide

5,000 Low-Income Households Get First Monthly Check From Cash Assistance Pilot

The program is meant to see what impact the guaranteed income will have on families and their communities. The median income of the program’s participants is $14,000.

Clouds form over the Chicago skyline and Lake Michigan as seen from Oakwood Beach in Chicago on May 17, 2022.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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CHICAGO — The city has sent out the first payment of $500 to the 5,000 households picked for Chicago Resilient Communities Pilot, officials said Tuesday.

The $31.5 million program is one of the largest monthly cash assistant pilots in the United States, according to the city. More than 176,000 Chicago households applied to get $500 checks each month for a year as part of the program; 5,000 were picked and have been sent their first payment.

The program is meant to see what impact the guaranteed income will have on families and their communities. It is being administered by nonprofit GiveDirectly.

“Many Chicagoans still face an uphill battle as they recover from the economic impacts of the pandemic, and direct cash assistance can support the flexibility they need to truly move forward,” Brandie Knazze, commissioner of the city’s Family and Support Services Department, said in a news release. “It was a priority to ensure individuals from vulnerable populations and those hard hit by COVID-19 were supported.” 

To be eligible for the program, Chicago residents had to have experienced hardship from COVID-19 and have a household income at or below 250 percent of the federal poverty level.

The median income of the program’s participants is $14,000, according to the city. The majority of participants live in poverty within communities with economic hardships and identify as caregivers.

About 58 percent of participants already get food assistance, and about 9 percent of people in the program said they’re experiencing housing instability or homelessness, according to the city.

Women make up 71 percent of the program’s participants, according to the city. About 68 percent of participants are Black or African American, 23 percent are Hispanic or Latino, 15 percent are white and 3 percent are Asian. 

The University of Chicago Inclusive Economy Lab is conducting a research study over the next 12 months to evaluate the program’s impact on participants’ financial and overall wellbeing, according to the city. 

The study will include people involved in the program as well as people who aren’t receiving monthly payments. Its results will be used to strengthen future assistance programs in the city and nationwide, according to the city. 

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