Applications for Cook County’s $42 million direct cash assistance program will open this fall, officials said Wednesday while outlining new details on the initiative they say they plan to make permanent.
Touted as one of the nation’s largest guaranteed income programs, Cook County plans to give $500 monthly payments to 3,250 residents for two years with the help of its federal American Rescue Plan Act dollars. Both city and suburban county residents can sign up here for updates on applications opening later this year.
In a news conference rolling out the specifics, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle sought to preempt critics who she said might use the “welfare queen” trope to argue poor residents would take advantage of the government, no-strings-attached handouts.
“Historically, both public and private institutions have been reluctant to directly invest in low-income people without significant restrictions,” said Preckwinkle, who is running for reelection this year. “This red tape is not because of evidence but rather based on how our society views people in poverty and questions about whether they have the character or the ability to make decisions for themselves. To put it plainly, this paternalistic view is both inaccurate and unhelpful.”
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Preckwinkle said a survey shows that a previous, smaller-scale cash assistance program Cook County set up during in the coronavirus pandemic resulted in a “vast majority” of the money being spent on food, housing, transportation and medical costs. That $9 million county program, launched in 2020, doled out CARES Act money to suburban residents only, allowing almost 14,000 households to receive a one-time $600 payment.
Participants of the new program must be adults whose household income is at most 250% of the federal poverty line and who will not participate […]
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