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CHICAGO, IL – Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, despite the city’s crippling debt, has introduced a $31.5 million proposal that would see $500 monthly COVID-19 relief payments go out to local households that have been financially-impacted by the ongoing pandemic.
Lightfoot’s proposal, revealed during a speech she delivered on the budget on Monday, would provide the $500 monthly payments to 5,000 Chicago-area families for 12 months.
The Mayor referred to the program as the “biggest” in the country and it would create a “first-of-its-kind pilot in Chicago of a monthly cash assistance program for hard-hit, low-income households in need of additional economic stability.”
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“This cash benefit plan for our residents, if approved, will be the largest in the history of the United States,” Lightfoot said, and noted that it would be focused on very low-income residents who have been economically hard-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In order for the proposal to become reality, it would need to be approved by the City Council.
Lightfoot’s proposal comes as the city is in the midst of a extraordinarily serious debt crisis; according to Truth in Accounting’s July 2021 analysis, Chicago earned a failing grade for its financial health, with $9.9 billion in available assets but a total debt burden of over $48.5 billion.
Despite federal COVID-19 financial aid, the report says, the city’s debt has grown to $43,700 per taxpayer.
In addition, the report noted that Chicago is so far behind on its payments into its employee pension plan – that the reports notes “the city has not been properly funding… for years” – that in order to ever catch up the city would have to lay off all of its workers, firefighters and police officers for eight years.
Currently, Chicago currently has more pension debt than 44 U.S. states, and reports indicate it is only growing worse during Lightfoot’s first term, as required pension contributions will be going up by $1 billion during that time frame.