Chicago could soon test universal basic income program

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CHICAGO ( - Chicago may soon become the largest municipality in the U.S. to test a universal basic income program.

Chicago alderman Ameya Pawar recently proposed legislation that would provide 1,000 families with a $500 monthly stipend-- no questions asked. The bill already has the backing of the majority of city lawmakers, and Pawar hopes to soon work with Mayor Rahm Emanuel to implement the pilot program, The Intercept reported.  

Nearly 70 percent of Americans don’t have $1,000 in the bank for an emergency,” Pawar told the outlet. “UBI could be an incredible benefit for people who are working and are having a tough time making ends meet or putting food on the table at the end of the month.”

Pawar campaigned to earn a slot on the ballot for Illinois governor, but withdrew his name from contention after being outspent by his opponents, the outlet reported.

In addition to the $500, the bill would adjust the Earned Income Tax Credit program to allow the families to put their tax credit toward their monthly mortgage payment, according to the outlet.

Pawar cited automation, with companies such as Amazon, Tesla and other car manufacturers investing in the technology as having the potential to disrupt millions of jobs, that in turn would lead to more political destabilization, according to the outlet.

Chicago wouldn't be the only city testing the waters to give residents free money.

Stockton, California has also proposed a universal basic income program with the backing of wealthy Silicon Valley moguls that will pay 100 residents $500 a month without any conditions. The program’s purpose is to eventually ensure that no one in Stockton, with a population of 300,000, lives in poverty.

The program, which allows the 100 lucky residents to use the money for anything they want, will launch in 2019 and last 18 months before officials decide whether to rollout the program citywide.

Alaska has issued every resident of the state a check since 1976 as part of the Alaska Permanent Fund, which varies on amount, but last year equaled $1,100, according to The Intercept. 

Countries overseas have also utilized some sort of cash transfer system, with Finland recently putting an end to a program that gave 2,000 unemployed working-age people 560 Euros per month.

Tech titans have chimed in their support for a universal basic income, with Tesla founder Elon Musk tweeting last month it “will be necessary over time if AI takes over most human jobs.”

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said during a Harvard commencement speech last year that “We should explore ideas like universal basic income to make sure that everyone has a cushion to try new ideas.”

Business magnate Richard Branson has also called for universal basic income.

A 2017 Pew Research Center study found that 60 percent of Americans favor the government providing a “guaranteed income that would allow them to meet their basic needs,” as workers with a high school diploma were the most likely to support a universal basic income at 65 percent, and workers with a four-year college education or more at 52 percent.

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