Chicago Democrat To Introduce Basic Income Plan To Pay Up To 5,000 City Residents

Chicago could be the next big city to consider a universal basic income pilot program.

The Chicago Tribune reports, Northwest Side Alderman Gilbert Villegas, a Democrat, “wants to use $30 million in federal pandemic recovery money to pay up to 5,000 Chicagoans $500 per month for a year.” He will reportedly introduce the proposal during Wednesday’s City Council meeting.

Chicago received $1.8 billion in coronavirus relief funds.

According to the outlet, “Aldermen held a hearing on his proposal last month, and council Black Caucus Chairman Ald. Jason Ervin 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.” Villegas said many black residents would be eligible for the program, the article said.

“If you take a look at where most of the need would be, it would probably fall in the black and brown communities for sure,” Villegas said in March. “I mean – this pandemic has been an equal opportunity destroyer…60% of African Americans and 72% of Latinos have had to dip into their savings, [and] 35% of white families have had to do the same to try to survive during this pandemic.”

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Villegas said a one-year test run would give city leaders time to “demonstrate to corporations and philanthropic organizations that we have skin in the game.” He said he envisioned private donors and businesses funding a much broader program in the future.

More from The Tribune:

To qualify, applicants would need to have annual income of 300% or less of the federal poverty level, which Villegas said works out to $38,640 for a single person and $52,260 for two people.

They also would need to be enrolled in City Colleges of Chicago themselves, or have a dependent who is enrolled in City Colleges or a Chicago public school, or is too young to be in elementary school.

The city previously considered a similar proposal two years ago when then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D) appointed a task force to study the issue. However, as the Sun-Times reported, the report “got lost during the change in administrations.”

Democratic Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s team has been “noncommittal,” according to The Tribune.

Still, other progressive mayors have embraced the idea.

On Monday evening, Los Angeles Democratic Mayor Eric Garcetti proposed a $24 million guaranteed basic income pilot program during his annual State of the City address. The plan is part of his city budget, which requires approval from the City Council.

According to the Los Angeles Times, “Garcetti is a member of Mayors for a Basic Guaranteed Income, which launched last year and advocates for a guaranteed income at the local, state and federal levels.”

The group is founded by Michael D. Tubbs, a former mayor of Stockton, California, which under his leadership, became the first U.S. city to establish a mayor-led universal basic income pilot program.

Tubbs is reportedly working with Garcetti on implementing a plan in L.A. and attended last month’s hearing in Chicago when he told lawmakers, “This is our New Deal moment.”

Related: Los Angeles Democratic Mayor To Propose Guaranteed Basic Income Pilot In ‘Most Progressive Budget’ He’s Overseen

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