$500 A Month, No Strings: Chicago Experiments With Guaranteed Income

  • Christopher Ellington’s South Side photography studio crashed in 2020 with the onset of the pandemic. By March 2021, he was scraping by on a tax preparation and financial advice business when gunshots rang out one day as he was leaving work. Two bullets from a drive-by shooter pierced his head and left him permanently blind.
  • The creditors were closing in, the rent notices piling up. And then a helping hand came late last summer from Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s administration: the first of a year’s worth of monthly $500 checks, with no strings attached and almost no questions asked.
  • “Talk about shock,” said Ellington, 32. “It was ‘Hey, the government is doing this? Wait a minute. I don’t have to, you know, report this and report that, and you don’t have to go through all of my business and I don’t have to watch what I say?’ I was like, ‘This is how it should be.’”
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