Financial and Monetary Systems

A universal basic income experiment could be coming to Chicago 

A general view of the city of Chicago, March 23, 2014.  REUTERS/Jim Young (UNITED STATES - Tags: CITYSCAPE SOCIETY)

Chicago would be the largest US city to trial a universal basic income. Image: REUTERS/Jim Young

Sinéad Baker
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Financial and Monetary Systems

Chicago could become the largest city in US to test a universal basic income programme, if its local government takes up a new proposal to start handing out $500 a month to some households for free.

City lawmakers have voiced support for legislation that would trial a basic income scheme for 1,000 families in Chicago.

A bill, proposed by Chicago lawmaker Ameya Pawar, has started the legislative process by gaining support from 36 of the city's 50 alderman, who vote on local laws.

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Pawar spoke about his plan with news website The Intercept, where he said that he was proposing the scheme in light of the threat of automation to the workforce, and to provide a lifeline to the majority of US families he said have very little money in the bank for emergencies.

The legislation will now be debated by aldermen on the city's Committee on Workforce Development and Audit.

If enough members are in favour of the plan, it will then be put before the City Council for a vote.

Chicago law means the mayor could then veto the proposal if he doesn't approve, but that in turn can be over-ruled by a two-thirds majority in the council.

Pawar told the Intercept he is hopeful that the council and mayor will support it, but it's not yet clear what the level of support will be.

A universal basic income scheme is already in place in Alaska, where up to $2,000 is given to a citizen a year from a state fund. Other parts of the US are also looking to trial a universal basic income, with an 18-month trial to begin for 100 families in Stockton, California in 2019.

Image: The Economist

Finland began a universal basic income trial at the beginning of 2017 that gave 2,000 unemployed Finns €560 a month, tax free. There was a plan to expand it to cover working people as well, but the scheme was pulled in favour of other social welfare projects.

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