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Chicago Will Explore Universal Basic Income

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel during an interview at City Hall in Chicago, Ill., June 14, 2017. (Joshua Lott/Reuters)

Outgoing Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel is expected to create a task force to explore the implications of implementing a universal-basic-income program to counteract the city’s rising poverty rates, the Chicago Tribune reported Wednesday.

Universal basic income, which refers to a no-strings-attached monthly payment made to struggling families, has increasingly gained support among urban progressives in recent years as automation and the offshoring of manufacturing jobs reduce low-skill-employment opportunities.

North Side alderman Ameya Pawar introduced a resolution in June that would pay 1,000 Chicago families $500 per month to offset the cost of groceries and housing, absent any prerequisites.

“Chicago would be the largest city in the country to take this step,” said Pawar, who stipulated that the task force will examine all options rather than relying on her resolution as a framework. “I think the mayor sees this as a chance to lead the way as cities try to grapple with poverty and income inequality at a time the federal government is not addressing those things. This would be a legacy issue [for him].”

Pawar told the Tribune that she will chair the task force along with Service Employees International Union Local 1 president Tom Balanoff and Celena Roldan, the CEO of the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois. It is set to issue a report on its findings in “a few months.”

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