Just in time for the holidays, an innovative joint project by the City of Evanston and Northwestern University is part of a growing movement to study the impact of guaranteed income.
The Guaranteed Income Pilot Program provides 150 individuals with a $500 monthly stipend for one year to use as they see fit.
“This holiday season will be extra special for the Evanston residents participating in the program, said Dave Davis, senior executive director of Neighborhood and Community Relations at Northwestern. “They’ll have a little more money for rent, food, gas, gifts or whatever they might need. While we wish we could extend the program to more families this year, we know what an incredible impact this will have on those in the program and for our community as a whole.”
Northwestern has provided $400,000 in funding for the pilot program, while additional funds come from the American Rescue Plan, the City of Evanston and the Evanston Community Foundation.
Northwestern’s Jonathan Guryan, a professor in the School of Education and Social Policy and a faculty fellow in the Institute for Policy Research, is leading a team of graduate students — Phoebe Lin, Claire Mackevicius and Sheridan Fuller — in a study that measures the pilot program’s impact and provides data to inform future poverty reduction efforts.
“Northwestern is committed to fostering innovative solutions to our city’s most pressing challenges, namely inequality and economic insecurity,” Davis said. “Guaranteed income programs treat recipients with dignity in determining how best to spend the money.”
The project sought applicants from three demographic categories: 18-to-24-year-old adults, seniors age 62+ and undocumented residents whose current incomes fall below the poverty level.
“This exciting partnership will allow us to put cash in the hands of residents who need it most — and it puts Evanston where it belongs, at the forefront of innovation in progressive policy,” said Evanston Mayor Daniel Biss.
Cicely Fleming, former 9th Ward alderperson and an early proponent of the project, believes the program is important both for what it does and what it does not do.
The program will enable recipients to use the stipend toward things they don’t have cash for. For example, an individual may receive a childcare subsidy but be unable to cover a medical co-pay.
“People don’t go to the doctor because they’re afraid of bills,” Fleming said. “There are so many costs that federal and local support programs don’t cover.”
At the same time, because Illinois law does not consider payments from such programs to be income, they will not jeopardize most other government benefits.
Visit the City of Evanston website to learn more about the Guaranteed Income Program.