Mayor Lightfoot Announces New Initiatives in Administration’s Fight Toward Ending Poverty
On 2-Year Anniversary of Mayor’s Solutions Towards Ending Poverty Summit, City of Chicago Announce Monthly Cash Assistance Program and New Fines and Fees Program for April
CHICAGO – Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot, City and community leaders today announced new efforts to alleviate financial hardship on the second anniversary of the Mayor’s Solutions Towards Ending Poverty (STEP) summit. The Mayor invited interested residents to sign up for notifications about the Chicago Resilient Communities Pilot, a $31.5 million program to benefit Chicago residents and families facing economic hardships caused by COVID-19. Mayor Lightfoot will also announce details of a groundbreaking fines and fees program that will make Chicago one of the first cities in the nation to take financial affordability into account when assessing fines and fees.
“Today’s announcement is all about supporting our residents who are still struggling to make ends meet,” said Mayor Lightfoot. “Our innovative, monthly cash assistance program will help to stabilize and ensure the wellbeing of residents that have been struggling both before and during the pandemic. I am dedicated to continuing to bring relief to our city’s hardest-hit communities and look forward to rolling out this new initiative as soon as possible alongside our newest fines and fees reforms and other Chicago Recovery Plan priorities.”
The Chicago Resilient Communities Pilot will be one of the largest monthly cash assistance programs in the nation and will support 5,000 low-income households with $500 a month for 12 months to provide additional economic stability. To apply for the lottery to participate, residents must live in the City of Chicago, be 18 years or older, have experienced economic hardship related to COVID-19, and have a household income at or below 250% of the Federal Poverty Level (ex. $57,575 for a household of 3). Residents can learn more and sign up to be notified when the application is live in April at chicago.gov/cashpilot.
The City is currently reviewing RFP submissions from nonprofit charitable organizations to administer the program and conduct outreach and enrollment for the pilot. To shape this historic initiative, Mayor Lightfoot has also convened an Advisory Group of experts from across Chicago and the country—including advocates, researchers, aldermen, and those with personal experience of poverty—to advise the city on equitable and effective program design and implementation. The City will also partner with the Inclusive Economy Lab at the University of Chicago to evaluate the impact of the pilot on participants and generate lessons learned around implementation for the City and the nation. Current pilot partners are listed here.
“Three years ago, we proposed the idea of a citywide cash pilot, and now, 5,000 Chicagoans will soon receive $500 monthly checks. For those families, this will be a year of relief; it can be a year to catch up on overdue bills, a year to build up savings, a year when dreams can grow into small business ventures, or a year where that vacation is finally possible. As the pandemic worsens the inequality brought on by decades of disinvestment and short-sighted policymaking, we feel confident that direct cash can disrupt the vicious cycle of poverty. We applaud the Mayor for her leadership and look forward to continuing to support and advise the City in this historic effort,” said Harish I. Patel, Director, Economic Security for Illinois.
The Chicago Resilient Communities Pilot is just one of three different cash assistance programs that will be available to hard-hit residents this Spring. In April, the City will open applications for a $4.8m Domestic Worker Relief Fund (one-time, $500 relief) and a $10.7m Chicago Resiliency Fund 2.0 for residents excluded from prior Federal stimulus relief (one-time, $500 relief). Combined, these three funds will benefit over 30,000 Chicagoans disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. These are just three initiatives within the broader $1.2 billion Chicago Recovery Plan to promote safe and thriving communities and an equitable economic recovery from COVID-19. Learn more at chicago.gov/recoveryplan.
In another step to combat regressive fines and fees burdening low-income households, Mayor Lightfoot also announced that enrollment for the Clear Path Relief (CPR) pilot program will open on April 1. The program is designed to help low-income motorists eliminate old debt by paying off only the original fine amount on tickets incurred within the last 3 years. Additionally, any new tickets will be assessed at 50% of the original fine and will not incur any fees or penalties until after December 31, 2023. The city is also introducing a “fix-it” defense for expired city sticker or expired license plate violations. Individuals will have the opportunity to “fix” violations by purchasing the required stickers instead of paying the ticket. Each license plate will have one opportunity to “fix” each violation, and the “fix” must be done within 30 days of the violation.
"At the Chicago Jobs Council, we advocate for policy changes that reduce racial disparities and improve economic outcomes for job seekers marginalized by racism and other systemic barriers. People experiencing financial hardships should not face disproportionate punishment because they can't afford steep fines and fees, which tends to exacerbate economic hardships for jobseekers," said Dr. Lisa Bly-Jones, CEO of the Chicago Jobs Council. "The measures released by the Mayor recognize the impact that the fines and fees system has on Chicagoans and these incremental but meaningful steps towards reform, reduce the ticket burden on individuals," said Dr. Lisa Bly-Jones, CEO, Chicago Jobs Council.
"More than any big U.S. city, Chicago has experienced first-hand why reliance on regressive fines and fees revenue is a lose-lose situation — both for residents and their local government," said Priya Sarathy Jones, national policy and campaigns director at the Fines and Fees Justice Center. "This new pilot program will bring opportunity to Chicagoans and is a building block toward alleviating the harms of ticket debt on lower-income communities and people of color."
Today’s announcement takes place two years after Mayor Lightfoot hosted the STEP Summit, which convened hundreds of Chicagoans to launch a long-term effort to implement evidence-based policies and investments to address entrenched poverty and economic hardship.
Since that time, the City has taken numerous actions to address poverty and the economic hardship that has been caused by COVID-19, including providing $637.7 million in affordable housing and emergency rental assistance, investing $1.4 billion in south and west side neighborhoods through INVEST South/West, forgiving over $125 million in vehicle impoundment fees, granting $115 million in small business and non-profit relief, distributing nearly 200 million pounds of emergency food assistance, increasing the minimum wage to $15/hour, forgiving over $9 million in debt and setting aside over $11 million through Utility Billing Relief, and working with CTA to reduce fares to their lowest levels since 2008. Today’s announcement builds on those actions and provides additional assistance to those who continue to struggle with the economic impacts of the multiple crises that have hit Chicago.