New $42M guaranteed income program is using innovative tech to distribute funds

It's the nation's largest guaranteed income program.

By Chase DiBenedetto  on September 14, 2022

As guaranteed income programs continue to expand and benefit thousands of families around the country, Illinois' Cook County unveiled the largest one yet: A $42 million promise for thousands of Chicago-area families.

The substantially-endowed Cook County Promise Guaranteed Income Pilot will serve 3,250 low-income families, each receiving $500 monthly cash payments for 24 months. It's similar to many other city-based free money programs, which range anywhere from $200 to $2,000 a month for thousands of households, that offer a localized glimpse into what could be accomplished with Universal Basic Income (UBI). Studies of direct cash payments and universal income have provided ample evidence that such aid promotes both financial and social prosperity among lower-income communities, and can provide needed assistance to portions of the population that often go untouched by federal relief. Recent U.S. Census data has also shown that general direct aid in the form of straight-to-individual payouts helped reduce poverty overall.

The program is in partnership with global NGO GiveDirectly, which will oversee the program's payment administration, and technology company AidKit, which will help build and host applications and payment processing tools for participants. "The core of it is really wanting to empower people with choice, dignity, and opportunity," said AidKit CEO and co-founder Katrina Van Gasse. "Direct cash assistance is one of the most direct ways to do that."

AidKit's payment technology is uniquely accessible to a broad range of prospective recipients, and was intentionally designed to help make the logistic process of direct cash assistance more efficient. The organization was originally founded after seeing the success of tech built and installed to support the Left Behind Workers Fund, a pandemic relief program for undocumented workers in Colorado. The company began to scale its services to aid more than a dozen emerging direct cash and guaranteed income programs, starting initially with Atlanta, Georgia's In Her Hands income pilot.

"Our highest goal at AidKit is to leverage technology to improve people’s lives. Cook County Promise represents an unprecedented opportunity to do that at scale," wrote Van Gasse in the program's press release. The organization has become a go-to resource for similar programs around the country, helping to distribute $50 million dollars to more than 34,000 people in various test programs like Cook County Promise.

Read the full article as originally published in Mashable.

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