What is the Chicago Resilient Communities Pilot?
It is a guaranteed income cash assistance program that targets low-income Chicagoans who experienced hardship due to the pandemic. Approved by the Chicago City Council in 2021, the program is one of the largest cash pilots in the nation, funded by $31.5 million of the nearly $2 billion Chicago received in federal pandemic relief aid. Five thousand low-income Chicagoans will receive $500 in monthly installments for one year — via bank transfer or debit card — to use however they see fit. The pilot will be administered by GiveDirectly, an international nonprofit with expertise in cash assistance programs.
Who can apply?
Chicago residents 18 years old and older with a household income at or below 250% of the federal poverty level. For a household of three, the total income should not exceed $57,575; for a one-person household, that number would be $33,975. Applicants should also demonstrate they have experienced economic hardship related to COVID-19. Eligible applicants will be entered into a lottery, which is “designed to prioritize households living in poverty [at or below 100% of the federal poverty level] and those living in communities with pre-existing economic hardship,” according to the city’s website.
How do I apply?
The city of Chicago will open up its application website at 9 a.m. on Monday, April 25. It will close on Friday, May 13, at 11:59 p.m. It will be available in five languages other than English: Spanish, Chinese (simplified), Arabic, Polish and Filipino. All applications must be submitted online by computer, tablet or smartphone. A list of acceptable documents showing proof of age, residence, and income can be found here.
Will my other benefits be affected?
The city has worked with local, state and federal agencies to secure waivers so that the cash from the pilot will not adversely affect benefit amounts and eligibility for many critical safety net programs, according to Skyler Larrimore, first deputy director of policy for the city. Officials are continuing to work with agencies to finalize decisions. The most up-to-date list of affected programs can be found in the FAQ, under “If selected, will the money impact my existing benefits?”
Are there other programs like this?
Guaranteed income and cash assistance programs are not new. However, they gained steam in recent years, and especially in the aftermath of the pandemic. In 2019, Stockton, Calif., became one of the first cities to pilot guaranteed income, giving 125 randomly selected residents $500 a month for two years. Since then, other cities have started or announced similar programs, including Chicago, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, and Denver. In March, Cook County announced its own $42 million pilot for suburban residents not eligible for Chicago’s program.
Any other questions? The city has a fairly robust “Frequently Asked Questions” page.
Esther Yoon-Ji Kang is a reporter for WBEZ’s Race, Class and Communities desk. Follow her on Twitter @estheryjkang.