Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago

CHICAGO — A county program will give people $500 per month in cash assistance for two years — and applications are now open.

People can apply to the Cook County Promise Guaranteed Income Pilot from Thursday through Oct. 21, according to a news release. Cook County residents who are eligible can apply here

The program will send monthly payments of $500 to 3,250 residents for two years, according to the county. Payments are expected to begin in December.

The $42 million investment is funded by the American Rescue Plan Act, the Biden administration’s measure to provide direct relief to citizens who faced setbacks during the pandemic.

Applicants must be at least 18 years old, a Cook County resident and have a household income at or below 250 percent the federal poverty level. Participants will be selected by lottery, according to the county.

The pilot is open to households regardless of immigration status, and applicants will not have to verify U.S. citizenship, according to the county.

Income requirements:

Federal Poverty Guidelines
Household/Family Size250 percent federal poverty level
*For each additional member over eight, add $11,800

The Cook County program comes as Chicago sends out the first $500 checks to 5,000 families selected for its own cash assistance program. People already participating in other guaranteed income programs, including Chicago’s, cannot apply to the Cook County version, officials said.

The county has teamed up with six local outreach partners who are engaging diverse communities about the program and telling people how to apply, according to the county.

A goal of the pilot is to “learn how guaranteed impacts participants, as well as the local economy and community,” according to the county. University of Chicago’s Inclusive Economy Lab and the Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy and Practice will research and evaluate the program, according to the news release.

“Guaranteed Income programs hold promise for improving economic mobility and promoting racial equity,” Carmelo Barbaro, executive director of the Inclusive Economy Lab, said in the news release. “To expand these programs locally and nationally we need to generate evidence about the most effective ways to distribute dollars and how families leverage these programs to achieve their goals.”

Cook County has committed to support the guaranteed income program beyond its pilot with county funds and philanthropic support, board President Toni Preckwinkle said.

The “two-year pilot is the largest publicly funded guaranteed income initiative in American history and will provide thousands of our residents with a stable economic foundation,” Preckwinkle said. “Many for the first time in their lives.”

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