Chicago is on course to become the largest city in the US to try the concept of universal basic income. A new proposal is in front of local authorities in the city and if passed, it will see some households in the city get up to $500 a month for free. Many legislators in the city have already voiced their support for the trial that will target 1,000 households. The bill was proposed by Chicago lawmaker Ameya Pawar.
The legislative process of passing it into law has also started and so far 36 out of the 50 local aldermen have expressed their support towards it. Pawar said that the scheme is designed to cushion workers against automation in the workforce. He also noted that the scheme could provide a much-needed lifeline for millions of American families who don’t have enough money in the bank for emergencies.
The proposal will now be debated at the committee phase. If there are enough members who back it, the bill will then be sent to the local city council for a vote. However, the Mayor still has veto power which means that even if the proposal is passed by the City Council, he may decide to veto it. According to Chicago law, a two-thirds majority in the Council can overrule the veto if they see fit. Pawar has remained confident that the bill will be fully supported by both the council and the Mayor. Nonetheless, we’re still not sure of the level of support we are going to see. Although support for the bill at the committee stage seems to be huge, things may not be the same when the bill finally reaches the City Council.
There are other states in the US that are offering a universal basic income. Alaska, for example, is giving qualified citizens up to $2,000 a year from an established state fund as part of the program. The city of Stockton in California is also starting a new pilot program targeting at least 100 households. The pilot will last 18 months.
However, these programs are going to face many challenges. In fact, Finland started to pilot a universal income program in the country last year only to fail in the end. The government in the country was offering 560 Euros to 2,000 households tax-free. There was also a plan to expand the number of people covered by this plan gradually. However, after a few months of piloting the entire project failed to achieve the desired results. Finland then scrapped it in favor of other more effective social welfare programs.
The city of Chicago has a significant number of low-income communities. There are also a few exciting welfare programs in the city. However, it’s not yet clear how the universal income proposal will fit into these other programs. Nonetheless, even if a pilot program is approved by the City Council, there may be too many other challenges that may prevent the adoption of this program in a much bigger scale.