Applications open for Chicago cash assistance program to help low-income residents

Program to provide a basic income of $500 a month for 5,000 residents
CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chicago residents are now able to apply for the city's new basic income program.

The city estimates that about 5,000 low-income households will benefit from the Chicago Resilient Communities Pilot Program.

"I remain committed to making an equitable recovery from the pandemic to stabilize and ensure the wellbeing of all residents," said Mayor Lori Lightfoot. "The Chicago Resilient Communities pilot is a way for us to efficiently support the communities and households that were hardest hit by the pandemic with dignity as well as build on our work to eradicate poverty. I'm deeply proud to launch the largest cash assistance program of its kind in the country as we continue to provide economic relief to residents and strengthen our city."

The city expects the program to be one of the largest monthly cash assistance programs in the nation, providing eligible families with $500 per-month for 12 months to provide additional economic stability. More than 74,000 Chicagoans have applied since Monday morning.

Brandie Knazze heads the Chicago Department of Family and Support Services, the agency that's overseeing this pilot program.

"We are just really excited that people are interested in the program," Knazze said. "We want to make sure that we can help mitigate the financial impacts that COVID has had on family and get cash into the hands of people who are suffering."

To qualify, residents must be:

-18 years or older
-Have experienced economic hardships because of the pandemic
-Have a household income at or below 250% of the federal poverty level. For a family of three, that is less than $58,000. For a one-person household, the limit is $33,975 and for two people, it is $45,775.

Applicants who meet the criteria will be entered into a lottery. The city said people living in poverty and communities with preexisting economic hardship will be prioritized.

Census data from 2020 showed that 28% of Black Chicagoans are living below the federal poverty level, the highest of any racial demographic in the city. Only 9% of white Chicagoans live below the poverty level, the lowest among all groups. The YWCA Metropolitan Chicago is in charge of spreading the word about the program to people who need the cash assistance.

"We realize some folks have a digital divide so part of that application assistance is actually walking them through the application over the phone," said CEO Nicole Robinson.

The University of Chicago Inclusive Economy Lab will be conducting research on this pilot program throughout the process.

"The city wants to understand what the benefit of this program was for individuals participating in the program as well as their families and their communities," said Executive Director Carmelo Barbaro.

The non-profit administrator of the pilot program, GiveDirectly, will accept applications between 9 a.m. Monday, April 25 and 11:59 p.m. Friday, May 13.

For more information, visit chicago.gov/cashpilot.
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