Today Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Alderman Ameya Pawar announced the creation of the Chicago Resilient Families Task Force to evaluate and recommend new strategies for reducing the number of Chicago families experiencing poverty. The Task Force will be charged with further modernizing and expanding access to the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), exploring a potential pilot of a Universal Basic Income (UBI) or other guaranteed income programs, and recommending other opportunities to reduce poverty and reduce financial burdens on low-income residents.
“Chicago has the opportunity to lead the way in groundbreaking poverty-reduction programs, and this task force will help us lay the path toward that goal,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “From my work on the EITC in the Clinton White House and Congress to the creation of a $13 minimum wage, I have dedicated my career to finding more ways to help families work their way out of poverty and strengthening their economic security.”
Alderman Pawar first introduced an ordinance to City Council in July calling for the establishment of a task force to study EITC programs and local UBI.
“The Chicago Resilient Families Task Force will drive forward the conversation around guaranteed income and modernizing the Earned Income Tax Credit, two potentially transformative moves for lifting Chicagoans out of poverty,” said Alderman Pawar. “This could allow financially struggling Chicagoans to begin to rise out of poverty, thereby also boosting local economic development in their own communities.”
The task force will be led in partnership with the Economic Security Project, a national organization committed to advancing the debate on guaranteed income in the United States. The task force will also partner with the Social IMPACT Research Center at Heartland Alliance.
"I'm thrilled to see that my hometown of Chicago is leading the charge of providing economic stability to its hard working residents by embracing this innovative package of interventions," said Dorian Warren, co-chair of the Economic Security Project. "This forward-thinking leadership is what we need to move our cities – and our country – into a system that works for all, not just a select few."
The task force will be co-chaired by SEIU Local 1 President Tom Balanoff and local community leader Celena Roldan with other members including civic, religious, business, and community leaders in addition to elected officials and academics. The task force will produce a series of recommendations, including the potential for a non-city funded guaranteed income program pilot, and will list a set of prescriptive policies aimed at reducing poverty and supporting working class Chicagoans.
“Universal Basic Income has the potential to raise the floor for all Chicagoans and could be one important component in the fight for economic justice for Chicago’s working families,” said Balanoff. “We need new, innovative social programs to ensure thousands of working people have the financial security they need to raise their families and support their communities. Chicago must lead the way.”
Other cities have established innovative programming around poverty reduction, including a small guaranteed income pilot currently being operated in Stockton, CA and the Working Families Credit Program in San Francisco, CA.
Throughout his Administration, Mayor Emanuel has worked to find ways to reduce the number of Chicago families experiencing poverty.
In July 2018, the Mayor increased Chicago’s minimum wage to $12 per hour – a 45 percent increase in the minimum wage since 2011. The increase was part of a larger plan that will raise the minimum wage for 410,000 workers annually to $13 per hour in 2019.
Under Mayor Emanuel, the City of Chicago launched Tax Prep Chicago, an initiative that provides qualified residents with free income tax return services, ensuring filers take advantage of Earned Income Tax Credits. In 2017, Tax Prep Chicago helped over 20,000 families and individuals receive nearly $30 million in tax refunds and credits.
In 2016, the Mayor passed an ordinance that allowed employees to earn paid sick leave, providing a meaningful benefit to thousands of Chicago families with a limited impact on employer costs.