Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle joined a coalition of other county leaders in Washington, D.C. on Monday to announce an organized push for federal support of guaranteed income programs.
Preckwinkle will serve as co-chair of the new national group, Counties for Guaranteed Income. Made up of county commissioners and county board leaders from around the country, it’s an expansion of Mayors for Guaranteed Income. Both are networks of local leaders advocating for guaranteed income and spearheaded by Michael Tubbs, the former mayor of Stockton, California, where a guaranteed income pilot drew national attention.
Tubbs joined Preckwinkle at a roundtable event announcing the new group, which also includes, among other counties, leaders from Los Angeles and Santa Clara in California, King and Pierce in Washington and Hennepin in Minnesota.
CGI will work “in tandem” with MGI, according to release, and will advocate for cash-based policies at every level of government, “invite county elected officials to join us in our efforts to advance a guaranteed income … and provide technical assistance for new pilot programs,” and “highlight the lived experience of economic insecurity and ways government can alleviate it.”
Cook County’s two-year, $42 million pilot program providing unrestricted $500 monthly payments is underway. It’s funded by federal COVID-19 relief dollars, though Preckwinkle has pledged to make the program permanent after federal funds dry up, paid for with a mix of cannabis revenue and other money being dedicated to the county’s “equity” fund.
The county’s program reached full enrollment last week, with 3,250 county residents selected from among 233,000 who applied in the fall. Participants’ median age is 40, according to Preckwinkle’s office, and 58% live in a home with children. About 70% are women, 50% are Black, 25% are Latino and nearly 85% live in the suburbs. Slightly more than half the recipients are working and 15% are disabled, while 7% are “unstably housed.”
Preckwinkle and Tubbs headlined a roundtable event announcing the new group.
“Martin Luther King, in the 1960s, talked about the importance of guaranteed income. Providing our families with a floor. And so did the Black Panthers,” Preckwinkle said at Monday’s event. “They said, basically, everyone should have either a guaranteed job or a guaranteed income. So 50 years later, we’re seeing this experiment kind of bubble up from the local level.
“And we hope that these models, these pilots, will be proof of concept and will kind of move the ball down the field,” she continued, “… and hopefully get the federal government to engage, because, frankly, that’s where the resources are, that’s the level of which we have to do this.” She added that key to the group’s success would be bipartisan buy-in and long-term funding. Neither are certain: Preckwinkle noted Congress could not pass a child tax credit enhancement late last year.
“The people in this room are mostly Democrats. We have to get Republicans on board,” Preckwinkle said. “We can talk about the fact that people have choice, that government is not dictating to them what they’re to do with the money, that we’ve made access really easy, they got prompt payments. There are ways in which we can frame it, that this helps with the economic stability of families. … We’ve got to figure out what our messaging is going to be,” she said.