More than 176,000 Chicago residents applied for chance to receive $500 for 12 months

More than 70% of applicants were women, according to City Hall. Applicants are expected to hear news about their status in the program by next week.

SHARE More than 176,000 Chicago residents applied for chance to receive $500 for 12 months
Yessenia Cervantes-Vázquez, a lead community health worker with Rush Community Health Center who is helping residents apply for the Chicago Resilient Communities Pilot, speaks to Fernando Acevedo in the basement of St. Paul’s Catholic Church in Pilsen.

Yessenia Cervantes-Vázquez, a lead community health worker with Rush Community Health Center who is helping residents apply for the Chicago Resilient Communities Pilot, speaks to Fernando Acevedo in the basement of St. Paul’s Catholic Church in Pilsen.

Pat Nabong / Sun-Times

More than 176,000 Chicago residents applied for a pilot program that will provide individuals with a base monthly income of $500 for a year.

Only 5,000 individuals will be selected through a lottery process, meaning that a person has about a 2% chance of being selected. Applicants of the Resilient Communities Pilot are expected to get an update about their status in the program next week after the Memorial Day holiday weekend, city officials said Tuesday.

GiveDirectly, the agency picked to administer the city program, will narrow the pool of candidates to 13,000 through a lottery. Those applications will be reviewed to see whether they fit the eligibility criteria before a final lottery will pick the 5,000 participants, officials said.

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Recipients will get the first $500 benefit through a prepaid debit card or their bank accounts by the end of June, though some might not receive it until July if they need more help enrolling, according to the city. City officials previously said the payments could have gone out by late May.

“Putting cash directly into the hands of people who need it most is one of the most efficient and effective ways for us to support residents working hard to regain economic stability,” said Mayor Lori Lightfoot in a written statement.

As many as 790,000 Chicago residents could have been eligible for the program, according to a WBEZ analysis of 2020 census microdata prepared by the University of Minnesota.

Most residents applied for the program in the first week the program accepted applications. Some of the hopeful applicants said they would use the money to pay essential bills like rent.

“It would, for a year, ensure me having a roof over my head where I wouldn’t have to worry about having that,” said Tommie Hannah, one of the thousands who applied for the program. “Because a person in my position, you can’t even think about going back to work or focusing on going back to school or anything like that if where you live is still in question.”

Hannah has been living in a shelter and would like to use the monthly benefit to help get his own apartment. He was among the 9% who applied for the program who are experiencing housing insecurity or homelessness, according to statistics released by the city.

Seventy percent of the applicants identified as women, and a majority are the parent or caregiver of a child, officials said.

The majority — 64% — of applicants are Black, 24% are Latino, 15% are white, and 3% are Asian, according to city officials.

Chicago residents who aren’t selected for the program might have another chance to receive a monthly $500 benefit. Cook County officials are in the early stages of launching a similar program, though that program will select 3,250 people who will get $500 for two years. The county is expected to open applications in the fall, with eligibility requirements similar to Chicago’s program, requiring people to have a household income below 250% of the federal poverty level. But applicants for the county program can’t already participate in other guaranteed-income programs.

Elvia Malagón’s reporting on social justice and income inequality is made possible by a grant from The Chicago Community Trust.

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