Chicago champions change and challenges poverty with its progressive universal basic income program

Chloe Baxter

Chicago is prepared to launch one of the nation’s most progressive and expensive universal basic income programs in the year 2022. This program will provide 5000 families with an annual income below $35,000 with a monthly of $500 – costing the city an estimated total of $31.5 million. This package is intended to lift families above the poverty line and promote financial stability within the Chicago area.

However, paying families to meet the newly universal income requirements is far from a solution to poverty in the Chicago area. It is neither a sustainable means of providing funds nor an appropriate option in a time of labor shortage. Further financial aid is only contributing to the nationwide unemployment crisis and increasing America’s debt.

The Washington Post is one of many to report on the numerous consequences of this program.

“Proposals like the one in Chicago feed the “process of reducing the willingness of people to participate in the workforce,” Michael Faulkender said.” (The Washington Post)

The United States’ labor market is undoubtedly in disarray following the economic effects of the pandemic. However, social policy programs are simply not the answer to an inherently unstable economy.

Instead, they only contribute to the issue of unemployment – decreasing the motivation for people to participate in the United States’ workforce.

This is because benefits, like what the Chicago Universal Base Income program is providing, reduce the incentive to join the workforce.

Those who receive the bounty of the program will have the means to live and combat hardships without having to be employed.

This reduces those who participate in the workforce, in addition to increasing dependency overall on federally-funded programs.

They are a temporary solution to a long-term issue, providing short-term economic relief to many but not offering a sustainable, dependable income. There is no guarantee that this program will continue to offer financial support following the expenditure of federally-provided funds.

Arguably, the limited time frame of the program may limit the reliance of people on this additional $500 a month, providing a temporary reprieve from economic hardship.

However, this promotes the illusion of security and stability while not actually improving the lives of those who receive the benefits in this regard beyond a short-lived economic safety net.

The Chicago Sun Times reports on Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s statements at the Chicago City Council concerning the drawbacks of the universal based income program.

“‘Of course, we need to teach people how to fish. But, at this moment with so many people suffering in pain and worrying about financial ruin, this is what we must do to make sure that these families don’t slip into the abyss,’” Lightfoot said on Wednesday.”

Again, the program does give its beneficiaries short-term economic relief but there are no long-term benefits. Rather, there are additional disadvantages to consider, demonstrated in the funding required for this program and where exactly such funds are coming from.

This Chicago-based program is funded by President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan, a trillion dollar economic stimulus package aimed to provide further economic relief to the United States. This package is relying on funds that have not yet been approved due to concerns about inflation and furthering the United States’ budget deficit.

Despite this, cities such as Los Angeles and Chicago have been open in their ambitions surrounding these programs, speaking as if the programs have already been implemented and funding has been approved.

Mayor Lori said in the “City council approves 2022 budget” (Fox32 Chicago) that he plans to use some of the coronavirus stimulus package funds to make the payments in the pilot programs, but some critics believe that will create a false sense of the program’s possible success.
With this in mind, the success of such programs in lifting citizens from the recesses of poverty is debatable.

Chicago’s progressive Universal Basic Income Program may have negative impacts on the economy long-term in contributing to unemployment and an unstable labor market. There is also the issue of funding provided through a still unapproved federal economic relief plan, which would contribute significantly to the United States’ debt – impacting the financial status of our future.