Cook County launches guaranteed income program paying $500 a month to suburban poor

  • Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle discusses the Cook County Promise Guaranteed Income Pilot during a news conference Wednesday at the Chicago Cultural Center.

    Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle discusses the Cook County Promise Guaranteed Income Pilot during a news conference Wednesday at the Chicago Cultural Center. Ashlee Rezin/Chicago Sun-Times

  • Toni Preckwinkle

    Toni Preckwinkle

Updated 5/19/2022 2:28 PM

Cook County will implement a new pilot program this fall that will provide monthly $500 payments to 3,250 residents -- most of them in the suburbs -- for two years, county board Board President Toni Preckwinkle announced Wednesday.

The Cook County Promise Guaranteed Income Pilot will be funded by $42 million from the American Rescue Plan and will improve the quality of life of county residents, Preckwinkle said.


"Historically, both public and private institutions have been unwilling to directly invest in low-income people without significant restrictions attached," Preckwinkle said.

"This red tape is in place not because any evidence shows that it is necessary, but rather because our society does not trust that people living in poverty have the character or ability to make good decisions for themselves.

"Cook County is reframing the way we think about government assistance and is proud to be leading the way in the American guaranteed income movement."

County officials already have committed to continuing the program after its two-year pilot run, in the belief that it will add to the research on guaranteed income and shed light on poverty in the suburbs.

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"Direct cash policies are key to unlocking our neighbors' potential," said Harish I. Patel, director of Economic Security for Illinois, which advocates for guaranteed income programs.

"We are hopeful this effort will prove how a guaranteed income should be a permanent fixture for every policymaker working to help uplift communities both locally and across the country."

County Board 15th District Commissioner Kevin Morrison, a Democrat from Mount Prospect, said data shows a program like this helps people work more, not less.

"It also helps folks move from part-time work to full-time work, which benefits them, their families, and our local economy. The pandemic showed us that we need to be creative in how we approach systemic issues and this program represents that," he said.


Adult Cook County residents with an annual household income at or below 250% of the Federal Poverty Guideline and not in any other guaranteed income programs are eligible.

In 2022, the poverty guideline is $13,590 a year for individuals, $18,310 for families of two, $23,030 for families of three, and $27,750 for families of four.

Residents of Chicago and the Cook County suburbs can apply, but the majority of those selected will be from the suburbs.

People can register by emailing, and applications are due by 5 p.m. Friday, June 10.

Once the application window closes, participants will be chosen by a lottery.

Researchers from the University of Chicago Inclusive Economy Lab and the Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice will study the impacts of direct payments.

To learn more about the pilot program or to sign up for updates, visit

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