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Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel creates task force to consider universal basic income

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel is planning to form task force to consider "universal basic income" for city families. (Joshua Lott/Getty Images)

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel plans to create a task force to consider launching a "universal basic income" program for Chicago families.

Emanuel was called on earlier this year by Alderman Ameya Pawar to launch a pilot program that would hand out $500 a month to 1,000 families, the Chicago Tribune reported. The task force comes on the heels of Emanuel's announcement that he won't run for a third term.

“Chicago would be the largest city in the country to take this step,” Pawar told the Tribune. “I think the mayor sees this as a chance to lead the way as cities try to grapple with poverty and income inequality at a time the federal government is not addressing those things. This would be a legacy issue [for Emanuel].”

The Chicago North Side alderman garnered the majority of the city's lawmakers to hop on board progressive no-strings-attached bandwagon. Pawar will co-chair the panel that decides whether the city can implement the program.

Pawar said in previous interviews that UBI could help cover housing costs and buy food for low-income families. He also believes that the future of automation could put millions out of work, which would lead to political polarization.

What do some analysts say?

Fox News political analyst Gianno Caldwell, who said he grew up in poverty in Chicago, believes the idea is merely for votes in the upcoming midterm elections.

"To me, I see this as buying votes at $500 a pop," he told Fox News First on Wednesday.

"This is, I think, a total smack in the face to folks who actually need help by way of programs that can benefit them in job training," Caldwell added. "So they can earn a living wage versus being handed $500, which gets you nowhere."

Democratic strategist Rochelle Richie, who also grew up in Chicago, said Democrats need to be cautious about implementing universal basic income programs.

"Republicans could use this as an opportunity to slash other programs, other welfare programs, such as Section 8 child, care assistance," Richie told Fox News First.

"We need to be putting people in a position in which they have a lifetime of success, which leads to generational wealth and stability and not short-term gains and long-term dependency," she added.

Are other U.S. cities testing UBI?

The city of Stockton, California, will soon launch its pilot program to test UBI. It will grant $500 to 100 residents and 1,000 residences in eligible neighborhoods will be given an opportunity to apply to the 18-month program.

Stockton is about 80 miles east of Silicon Valley, which is the wealthiest region in the country and home to the nation’s tech industry.

In April,  Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) introduced his plan that would guarantee a job and salary to any American "who wants or needs one."

The jobs would be for hundreds of public work projects and have a guaranteed minimum wage of $15 per hour.

Has it worked in other countries?

The Canadian province of Ontario announced in July that it would be ending its three-year test program early after determining that it wasn't sustainable.

“It was certainly not going to be sustainable. Spending more money on a broken program wasn’t going to help anyone,” said Lisa MacLeod, the Ontario minister responsible for social services.

The government had touted the plan as a way to cure poverty, bloated bureaucracy and the rise of precarious work.

Earlier this year, Finland also announced its plans to ditch its two-year basic income experiment by the end of the year. The Finland test gave 2,000 unemployed citizens €560 per month (about $652) with no strings attached and no requirement to gain employment.

What else?

Service Employees International Union Local 1 President Tom Balanoff and Celena Roldan, CEO of the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois, will co-chair the task force alongside Pawar, according to the Tribune. The group will begin meeting in the next few months.

One last thing…
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