By John Byrne
On his way out of office, Mayor Rahm Emanuel is set to create a task force that would consider whether to make monthly no-strings-attached payments to a group of Chicago families to help them make ends meet.
"Universal basic income" is an idea that has been gaining traction recently among progressives, and North Side Ald. Ameya Pawar introduced a resolution in June calling on Emanuel to launch a program to pay 1,000 families $500 every month.
Now, Pawar, 47th, says he will be part of a panel Emanuel will convene to figure out whether such a program can be implemented in Chicago.
For Pawar, who's not running for re-election, paying people each month to help them buy food or cover housing or transportation costs is a way to combat the loss of whole classes of jobs through automation and the offshoring of industries.
With Emanuel not seeking a third term, it's tempting to think the task force is a way to take some credit for considering universal basic income only to push the decision of whether to implement the program to his successor when he steps down in May. But Pawar said he doesn't think that's the case.
"Chicago would be the largest city in the country to take this step," Pawar said. "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 task force will start from scratch and will not use his June proposal as its jumping-off point, Pawar said. Service Employees International Union Local 1 President Tom Balanoff will join Pawar in chairing the task force along with Celena Roldan, CEO of the American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois, the alderman said.
They'll start meeting soon and issue a report in "a few months," he said.
The Emanuel administration did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the task force.
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