Cook County officials on Tuesday announced the county’s plans for a new $42 million guaranteed income program, the nation’s largest publicly funded cash pilot.
The Cook County Promise Guaranteed Income Pilot will provide $500 monthly payments to 3,250 county residents for 24 months. Participants must be 18 years of age or older and have a household income at or below 250% of the federal poverty line. Applicants cannot be participants in other guaranteed income programs, including the Chicago Resilient Communities Pilot or other cash pilots. Chicago residents are eligible to apply; however, most of those selected will be from the suburbs. Participants will be selected via a lottery process.
“The name of this pilot was chosen carefully — the word ‘promise’ reflects our intention for this effort,” said Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. “We know that this program will allow residents to reach their promise, their potential to thrive and live meaningful lives. But it also represents a promise to our participants, that this money is guaranteed to come monthly no matter what the circumstances.”
Joining Preckwinkle at a news conference announcing the pilot was Michael Tubbs, the former mayor of Stockton, Calif., who during his tenure there initiated one of the nation’s first guaranteed income pilots. Tubbs said there are now more than 100 cash pilots that have launched throughout the country.
“The issue with poverty is an issue of policy, and I think today and the leadership of Madam President, and the Cook County commissioners really illustrate that government can act differently, and government can be responsive to the needs of its people,” Tubbs said.
Harish Patel, director of Economic Security for Illinois, said the Chicago region now has “two of the biggest pilots in the nation, which means we will have the opportunity to inform the nation and national policies as we study the impact of these pilots.”
County officials said they hope the first payments will be sent by the end of this year. They said the program is designed to last 24 months in order “to be able to study the impacts of that kind of longer-term promise … seeing what the impact would be of assistance that is more durable,” according to Dominic Tosi, deputy bureau chief in Cook County’s Bureau of Economic Development.
The funds for the program come from the American Rescue Plan Act. Officials said the county is now taking applications from potential administration and outreach partners for the program. Residents can sign up for updates at engagecookcounty.com/promise.
Esther Yoon-Ji Kang is a reporter for WBEZ’s Race, Class and Communities desk. Follow her on Twitter @estheryjkang.