Chicago sets up universal income task force as city seeks ways to tackle poverty

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel will form a task force that will consider implementing the so-called “universal basic income” program in the city, as the embattled mayor seeks to cement his progressive legacy after promising not to run for another term.

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The idea for the program, which would make monthly payments to a number of Chicago families without any conditions, has been floated around in the city for months now.

Back in June, Chicago’s North Side Ald. Ameya Pawar introduced a resolution calling upon the mayor to launch the pilot of the program and pay 1,000 families $500 every month.

The new task force set up by Emanuel, according to the Chicago Tribune, will have a panel that will decide whether such welfare initiative could work in the city.

Pawar, who will be part of the panel, claims universal basic income is a way to tackle poverty amid the loss of jobs due to automation and the offshoring of industries.

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But the creation of the task force may open Emmanuel for criticism, as it comes just less than a week after he announced that he won’t run for a third term. The decision to implement a potentially costly program will rest on the shoulders of another mayor.

Pawar told the Tribune that he doesn’t believe Emanuel is creating the task force only to claim credit for it without actually implementing.

“Chicago would be the largest city in the country to take this step,” he said. “I think the mayor sees this as a chance to lead the way as cities try to grapple with poverty and income inequality at a time the federal government is not addressing those things. This would be a legacy issue [for Emanuel].”

"I think the mayor sees this as a chance to lead the way as cities try to grapple with poverty and income inequality at a time the federal government is not addressing those things. This would be a legacy issue [for Emanuel]."

- Chicago’s North Side Ald. Ameya Pawar

A number of cities in the U.S. have either discussed or adopted a similar version of the program. The city of Stockton, California will begin paying 100 fortunate residents $500 a month without any conditions in 2019.

The city, which was once known as America's foreclosure capital, has recently fallen on hard times, with 1-in-4 residents living below the poverty line and the median household income at nearly $8,000 lower than the national median.

In Oakland, California, Y Combinator, a startup incubator, is giving out $1,500 a month to randomly selected residents. It’s expected the money will soon be distributed to 100 recipients with a prospect of expanding the program to 1,000 people who will receive $1,000 monthly.