Gary launches guaranteed income program experiment for 1 year

GARY, Ind. (WLS) -- A new program is being launched in Gary to provide some residents with extra income with no strings attached for a year.

Burgess Peoples is the executive director of the Guaranteed Income Validation Effort. The pilot program will provide a $500 monthly income to 125 residents for a year.

"The pandemic, it hit everyone in the nation financially, mentally, you name it," she said.

Residents must be at least 18 years old and have a income of $35,000 or less. The city will be sending out surveys to residents. Recipients will be chosen though a lottery system.

"People don't really want to live in poverty. People want to have a choice to come out of this thing and this is one of the tools and instruments that will be used for that purpose," Peoples said.

Mayors for a Guaranteed Income provided $500,000 to start the program. Peoples hopes to raise $1.6 million to cover the costs. No tax dollars will be used.

"We are getting an outpouring of support, but we need more. We don't want to have any delays with this process," she said.

Damon Jones, an associate professor at the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy, said guaranteed income programs give low wage workers more options with such things as employment and childcare.

"The key things these demonstrations allow us to do is to learn about people's experiences and the benefits that they get from these transfers," Jones said.

Those chosen for the pilot program will start receiving their monthly gifts sometime this spring.

"It's a program that is going to fill the needs of people that's in poverty," said Kendall McMiller, a Gary restaurant owner.

Jermal Blakely is a longtime Gary resident, and doesn't believe it's enough money to make an impact.

"$500 a month can't really necessarily take care of anything or anybody, but it's a start," he said.

Peoples plans to expand this effort with support from the community.
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