Taxpayers to provide $1,000 monthly ‘guaranteed income’ across the state, according to proposal

A proposal is currently being debated in the Illinois state legislature to establish a task force that would investigate the implementation of monthly taxpayer-funded “unrestricted cash” subsidies for specific individuals.

State Senator Ram Villivalam, a Democrat from Chicago, presented Senate Bill 3462 to an Illinois Senate appropriations committee on Wednesday.

The Illinois Guaranteed Income Law, if passed, will establish a board under the Department of Human Services to assess the effectiveness of the program, suggest statewide policies, and ensure proper oversight. The board will examine the existing cash support options for low-income residents and identify populations that lack adequate access to such assistance.

After the dissolution of the board in 2027, the bill proposes that the Department of Human Services (DHS) will take over the administration of the program. Under this program, Illinois residents, irrespective of their immigration status, who are providing care for a child or a specified dependent, have recently given birth or adopted a child, or are enrolled in an educational or vocational program, will receive monthly cash payments of $1,000.

During a subject matter hearing in Chicago, Villivalam proposed an amendment to his bill. The amendment would establish a task force without specifying the exact amount of payment. Villivalam was unable to determine the cost of his plan for taxpayers.

During the committee meeting, Villivalam expressed his interest in engaging in discussions with committee members and colleagues to determine the most suitable approach for initiating this at the state level.

The committee did not take any action on the amendment.

Mike Buehler, the McHenry County Board chairman, was unable to attend Wednesday’s hearing but is listed as being opposed to the measure as filed. According to him, it is irresponsible to discuss a program of this nature without first determining the potential cost to taxpayers.

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According to Buehler, the eligibility for the benefits is restricted to individuals who have a child or are responsible for the care of someone in their household or school. This could potentially include a large number of people, amounting to tens of billions of dollars in costs. Buehler raises concerns about the source of funding for these benefits, pointing out that the only available option would be to obtain it from taxpayers.

Pilot programs for guaranteed income in Chicago and the Metro East St. Louis areas continue to incur significant costs for taxpayers. In 2022, the city of Chicago had allocated a budget of $31.5 million to provide $500 per month to 5,000 low-income residents. Similarly, Illinois legislators approved a pilot program for the Metro East St. Louis area, using $3.6 million in state taxpayer funds.

According to Ameya Pawar from the Economic Security Project, there are currently 150 different programs available throughout the country. He provided examples of individuals utilizing the funds to purchase sports equipment for their children or even to enjoy a well-deserved vacation.

Pawar explained to the committee that the money given to households not only helps stabilize them, but also benefits local businesses. As a result, a portion of this money is returned through sales taxes and other taxes.

Buehler cautioned that there may be unintended repercussions, such as a decrease in work productivity and other potential consequences.

According to the individual interviewed, there is a concern that providing benefits to immigrants regardless of their immigration status could lead to unintended consequences. Specifically, there is a fear that this could result in a large influx of migrants coming to Illinois solely to access these benefits without having to work for them.

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Pawar emphasized the importance of implementing a statewide guaranteed program that provides “unrestricted cash” to individuals in need. He suggested that this program should complement existing taxpayer-funded safety net initiatives, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) which helps individuals purchase food, the Low Income Housing Energy Assistance Program for covering heating bills, and the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program that offers monthly cash assistance to low-income families with children.

According to Buehler, the inclusion of “unrestricted cash” in a guaranteed income program could have negative implications for other taxpayer-funded safety net programs that provide targeted assistance.

He stated that in order to obtain this income, individuals may not always use it in their own or the public’s best interest.

The committee has not taken any action on the amendment, leaving the measure still pending in the committee.

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