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Mayor Lori Lightfoot is proposing a $31.5 million monthly payment plan aimed at helping low-income residents that she said will be the “biggest” in the country.
In her budget speech Monday, Lightfoot said she plans to create a “first-of-its-kind pilot in Chicago of a monthly cash assistance program for hard-hit, low-income households in need of additional economic stability.”
“This cash benefit plan for our residents, if approved, will be the largest in the history of the United States,” Lightfoot said.
The plan will include $500 per month payments for 5,000 households for 12 months, according to the city’s Budget Department, and will “be focused on very low-income residents who have been economically hard-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
More details weren’t immediately available. The proposal will need to be approved by City Council.
Former Lightfoot floor leader Ald. Gilbert Villegas, who’s considered a potential mayoral challenger in 2023, has been pushing a similar idea. He criticized the Lightfoot administration for being slow to introduce a plan.
“Imitation is the greatest form of flattery,” Villegas tweeted. “We could have been halfway through the pilot and helping families in need of assistance.”
Aldermen discussed the idea of basic income in March, which has been implemented in other cities.
City Council Black Caucus Chairman Ald. Jason Ervin previously said it would be a “slap in the face” to proceed with basic income before the city sets up a reparations program for descendants of enslaved people.
Critics have said such universal basic income programs, which have been championed by some progressives for years, remove the incentive for recipients to seek work, and give people money to spend on vices such as drugs and liquor.
But Michael Tubbs, former mayor of Stockton, California, told aldermen in the spring that the $500 monthly payments that a small subset of families in low-income areas of that city have received since 2019 have been helpful to them and the community at-large.