City unveils details of lottery that will decide who gets $500 monthly checks in universal basic income program

Applications for the nation’s largest universal basic income program will open April 25.

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Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Wednesday released details on the city’s application process for a universal basic income pilot program that will provide monthly checks of $500 to 5,000 households.

Sun-Times file

Needy Chicagoans vying for $500 monthly payments, no strings attached, will have nearly three weeks to apply for a city lottery used to choose 5,000 participants.

Six months after the City Council agreed to use $31.5 million in federal pandemic relief money to launch the nation’s largest universal basic income program, Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s administration on Wednesday fleshed out the nitty-gritty details.

GiveDirectly, the city’s nonprofit administrator, will start accepting applications for the city lottery at 9 a.m. on Monday, April 25. Chicagoans “facing economic hardship” have until 11:59 p.m. on Friday, May 13 to apply.

Applications can be submitted at To be eligible, applicants must: live in Chicago; be at least 18 years old; have experienced economic hardship related to COVID-19; and have a household income at or below 250% of the federal poverty level. That’s $55,575 for a household of three.

Only one application can be submitted per household.

On the same day that lottery applications open, application assistance will be available “in person, online with chat support and through a telephone hotline in multiple languages,” officials said.

In a press release announcing the details, Lightfoot stressed that her goal is to “prioritize individuals living in poverty.” That means “at or below 100 percent of the federal poverty level.”

“I remain committed to making an equitable recovery from the pandemic to stabilize and ensure the wellbeing of all residents,” the mayor was quoted as saying.

“The Chicago Resilient Communities pilot is a way for us to efficiently support the communities and households that were hardest hit by the pandemic with dignity as well as build on our work to eradicate poverty,” Lightfoot continued. “I’m deeply proud to launch the largest cash assistance program of its kind in the country as we continue to provide economic relief to residents and strengthen our city.”

GiveDirectly was chosen as “pilot administrator” working in conjunction with AidKit.

The YWCA of Metropolitan Chicago will serve as the “lead” on “outreach and recruitment.”

Both nonprofits were chosen after a recent request for proposals.

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