COOK COUNTY, Ill. — Thousands of Cook County residents will receive $12,000 over the course of two years through the “Cook County Promise Guaranteed Income Pilot” program.

The program is currently accepting applications through October 21, 2022. Applications will then be vetted for eligibility. Those which qualify will be entered into a lottery and 3,250 participants will be randomly selected. Notifications of selection or non-selection are expected to go out in mid-November with payments starting in January.

The $42 million initiative, funded in large part by money received from the American Rescue Plan Act, will be the nation’s largest publicly funded guaranteed income program. Its stated goal is to improve financial and health outcomes while also understanding the impacts of direct cash assistance on individuals, their families and their communities. Organizers say the findings of its voluntary research component will help inform social services and policies.

Who is eligible

According to the program’s website 36% of all Cook County residents are eligible to apply because they meet this list of criteria:

  • You reside in the Cook County Illinois AND
  • You are 18 years of age or older AND
  • Your household income level falls at or below 250% of the Federal Poverty Level
  • Neither you nor anyone else in your household are participating in another guaranteed income pilot. This includes the City of Chicago’s Resilient Communities guaranteed income pilot and the City of Evanston’s Guaranteed Income Pilot.

As noted above, there is no requirement of citizenship. The pilot is open to all Cook County households regardless of immigration status.

Household income is defined as the sum of all income earned by the members of your household in a year, regardless of the source.

The Federal Poverty Level is an income measure used by the government to determine eligibility for programs. It is based on household size – larger households will have higher income cutoffs than smaller households. If you are unsure about whether or not your household qualifies, you can use the following table to estimate.

  • For individuals: $33,975
  • For a family of 2: $45,775
  • For a family of 3: $57,575
  • For a family of 4: $69,375
  • For a family of 5: $81,175
  • For a family of 6: $92,975
  • For a family of 7: $104,775
  • For a family of 8: $116,575
  • For a family of 9+: Add $11,800 for each extra person

What can the money be used for?

There are only three things participants cannot spend the money on:

  • Buying or supporting anything that would harm the safety and security of other participants in the Cook County Promise Guaranteed Income Pilot and/or other community members
  • The promotion of and/or engagement in any criminal or illegal activities
  • Supporting any entities or individuals related to terrorism

Such activities will lead to removal from the pilot.

A few more tips

According to Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, applying early does not increase your chances of selection and she urges applicants to take their time when applying.

While the online application is designed to be user friendly on any device, in-person assistance is available at nine different locations, many of which include translation services in a variety of languages.

If an applicant is already receiving other financial benefits, simply applying will not endanger those programs. However if selected, recipients enrolled in other programs would receive additional guidance.

Answers to even more frequently asked questions

The program’s application portal has a longer list of questions and their answers.

Last year, California approved the country’s first state-funded guaranteed income plan, however the experiment has been run in countries around the world since 2016.