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City, University Pilot Guaranteed Income Program

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From Our Neighborhood News, Fall 2021

Since 2015, Northwestern has contributed $1 million to the city of Evanston in support of projects jointly agreed upon by the mayor and University president. Last year marked turning point in Northwestern’s understanding of its obligation to be a good neighbor, as it shifted the programs focus to address the needs of those left at the margins of society. The Racial Equity Fund was designed to meet those needs; funds were dedicated entirely to dismantling systemic barriers faced by historically marginalized communities.

One 2021 initiative is $300,000 in seed funding for a guaranteed income pilot program to provide direct financial assistance to low-income Evanston households, offering monthly cash payments to supplement the existing social safety net.

“My office is committed to working with the city and our community partners to make sure this program is successful,” says Dave Davis, executive director oNorthwestern’s neighborhood and community relations office. “We hope that these cash payments, paired with the myriad of other wraparound services, will help people get through these challenging times while still maintaining their dignity.”

Those selected for the program will receive $500 per month for a year. According to Cicely Fleming, alderwoman for the city’s Ninth Ward, the program hopes to begin issuing payments by the end of the year to three groups of residents: seniors 62 and above, people between ages 18 and 24, and undocumented residents. Applicants’ incomes must be below the poverty level.

The first year’s grant allows funding for 150 people, Fleming says, and a team of Northwestern researchers will help select the recipients. Applicants must provide proof of residency and income verification, and faculty will assess the programs effectiveness.

Going beyond the basic assistance of food stamps, Fleming says the program will allow recipients “to do things they need to do that they don’t have cash onhand for. You might get a childcare subsidy, but you still don’t have enough for a copay. People don’t go to the doctor because they’re afraid of bills. There are so many costs that federal and local support programs don’t cover.”

Because Illinois law does not consider payments from such programs as income, Fleming notes that participants won’t lose most other government benefits. “That’s huge, because you still might not have enough to cover all your costs,” she says. “We don’t want to get them kicked off.

“It’s totally unrestricted, so we’re not going to monitor how people use their funds. Even people with lower incomes do things like buy birthday giftsTheres no shame in their situation, and we trust them to make the best decisions for their family.”

TO LEARN MORE about the income program and who should apply, visit northwestern.edu/communityrelations.