The Windy City may soon experiment with giving its citizens cash windfalls via a universal basic income pilot program.
Chicago alderman Ameya Pawar appears to be well on his way to convincing colleagues to test his UBI program for 1,000 families. His goal is to transfer $500 each month in stipends — without conditions — to citizens.
“Nearly 70 percent of Americans don’t have $1,000 in the bank for an emergency,” Mr. Pawar told The Intercept for an interview published Monday. “UBI could be an incredible benefit for people who are working and are having a tough time making ends meet or putting food on the table at the end of the month. … It’s time to start thinking about direct cash transfers to people so that they can start making plans about how they’re going to get by.”
Mr. Pawar’s bill would also implement a process known as “smoothing” for families taking part in the Earned Income Tax Credit program; they would be paid monthly instead of annually.
“Our hope, that I know will be born out in this pilot, is that it will show that when we smooth out the EITC, and we provide a monthly basic income to 1,000 families, that they will be able to plan for expenses, they can make decisions about savings, they can make decisions about investing, they could make decisions about how they could deal with a financial emergency, just like all families do,” Mr. Pawar said. “And once implemented, we’ll be able to hopefully scale it.”
Not mentioned by the official was how the debt-ridden city would pay for an expansion of such a program.
“Chief Financial Officer Carole Brown said the city’s total pension debt now stands at $28 billion, down from $31 billion a year ago, thanks to the state legislation,” the Chicago Sun-Times reported July 11. “Under repeated questioning, Brown refused to say how [Chicago Mayor Rahm] Emanuel — if he is re-elected, that is — would meet the city’s pension obligation when the five-year ramp to actuarial funding is over.”