Cook County Promise Guaranteed Income Pilot Receives over 230K Applications

Robust outreach and assistance campaign leads to high participation rate - final 3,250 participants to be selected by lottery in coming weeks

Today, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle announced that the Cook County Promise Guaranteed Income Pilot (Promise Pilot) received 233,154 applications between October 6 and October 21. Funded by the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), the Promise Pilot is the largest publicly-funded guaranteed income pilot in American history and will send monthly payments of $500 to 3,250 Cook County residents for two years. Payments to program participants will begin December 2022.

“The overwhelming response from our residents speaks to the need being felt in all our communities at this unique time in history,” President Preckwinkle said. “Cook County is proud to be leading in the American guaranteed income movement and we look forward to providing a stable financial foundation for our residents who need help the most.”

Participants must be at least 18 years of age, a resident of Cook County, and have a household income at or below 250% of the federal poverty level. The pilot is being made available to Cook County households regardless of immigration status, and participants will not be asked to verify citizenship or documentation status. Households that are already participating in another guaranteed income pilot, such as the Chicago Resilient Communities Pilot or Evanston’s Guaranteed Income Pilot, were not eligible to apply. Cook County employees are also ineligible for the program.

Of the 233,154 applications submitted,

  • Median age is 39
  • Average household size is 2.5 persons
  • Median household income is $15,000
  • Gender demographics:
    • 70% female
    • 29% male
    • 1% other
  • Racial demographics:
    • 61% Black
    • 20% White
    • 3.5% Asian
    • 2% Native American or Alaska Native
    • 14% Other
  • Ethnicity demographics:
    • 25% Hispanic
    • 75% Non-Hispanic
  • Employment status:
    • 62% are working
  • Health and disability status:
    • 49% have gone to the ER at least once in the last year
    • 28% have delayed medical care in the last year due to cost
    • 22% are uninsured
    • 16% have a disability
  • Housing stability status:
    • 84% stably housed
    • 10% unstably housed
    • 6% other

In the weeks leading up to and throughout the application period, Cook County led a robust outreach campaign led by six outreach partners to assist members of hard-to-reach communities. Outreach partners included Housing Forward​, Indo-American Center​, Next Move,​Northwest Compass​, Respond Now​, and Spanish Coalition for Housing.

Partners conducted a number of outreach activities including issuing flyers, holding in-person application assistance drives, hosting events, disseminating information to other community-based organizations, and more. Outreach partners hosted over 25 in-person application assistance events along with daily open office hours during the application period totaling more than 500 hours. Outreach partners and the County also spread the word to hundreds of other local community-based organizations for application promotion and assistance.  Outreach and assistance were made available in English, Spanish, French, Polish, Arabic, Hindi, Urdu, Mandarin, Cantonese, Korean, Tagalog and Vietnamese.

“The anxiety of not knowing whether a family will be able to pay their rent and utility bills, or if they will have to decide between paying for school and their next meal, can be debilitating,” said Chirag Shah, Community Navigator Program Manager, Indo-American Center. “Programs like the Promise Pilot help to alleviate such concerns by increasing family financial stability. Our Community Navigators and Public Benefits staff have put in countless hours to make sure that the most marginalized, remote, and hard-to-reach members of the community are aware of this program and have somewhere to turn if they need help applying.”

GiveDirectly is serving as the County’s nonprofit Payment Administration partner. Now that the application window has closed, GiveDirectly will turn to verifying applicant eligibility, leading benefits counseling and enrollment, and ultimately issuing payments to the 3,250 selected households. For technological assistance, GiveDirectly has selected AidKit as its technology and payment platform partner.

“We are grateful for the over 230,000 Cook County residents who made the effort to apply for this program,” said Sarah Moran, U.S. Country Director for GiveDirectly “The overwhelming interest in the Promise Pilot reinforces the tremendous need for financial support among Cook County residents. It is heartening to see an applicant pool that reflects the diversity of Cook County and includes so many applicants from populations that can often be underrepresented. Our goal was to create a seamless process that reduced barriers for any and all eligible Cook County residents to apply. We look forward to working with County officials and our partners on the next phase of this program.”

Approximately 10,000 applicants will be selected by lottery for additional verification. In the coming weeks, GiveDirectly/AidKit may reach out by text and email to applicants for additional documents or application steps. Residents who applied are encouraged to respond to texts from 312-598-2180 and emails from All applicants will be notified about whether they have been selected by mid-November. Applicants can also check the status of their application using the link in the confirmation message they received upon application submission. If selected, residents will be invited to enroll online or at an in-person enrollment event.

“In times like these, when so many people are struggling with the cost of living, we need to eliminate artificial barriers to aid and reach every part of the community. Our goal is to meet applicants where they are, on their schedules, using the tools that work best for them. Whether they sign up in-person, from home, on a mobile phone, or even a public PC, we worked to make the process quick, convenient and secure,” said Katrina Van Gasse, Co-Founder and CEO of AidKit.

A major goal of the program is to learn how guaranteed income impacts participants as well as the local economy and community. This includes conducting an extensive evaluation in partnership with the University of Chicago’s Inclusive Economy Lab and the Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice. The research team has begun the qualitative part of the evaluation, reaching out to applicants who consented to participate in interviews to hear, in their own words, how they conceptualize guaranteed income and the potential impact of this program.

“With the application window closed and the lottery expected to be conducted in the coming weeks, we are excited to push forward the evaluation of the Cook County Promise Pilot, seeking to understand the impact this program can have on economic mobility, financial stability, physical and mental health, and other well-being measures,” said Misuzu Schexnider, Program Director at the University of Chicago’s Inclusive Economy Lab. “As researchers, we know that a rigorous evaluation is a marathon, not a sprint, and remain committed to sharing what we learn with the County and community over the next several years.”

For more information about the Cook County Promise Guaranteed Income Pilot, please visit

About Cook County

Cook County is the second largest county in the United States representing 5.2 million residents in Illinois. The President of the Cook County Board of Commissioners is the chief executive officer (CEO) of Cook County and oversees the Offices Under the President and presides as president of the Forest Preserves of Cook County.

About GiveDirectly

GiveDirectly is a nonprofit that sends money directly to the world’s poorest, no strings attached. In the last decade, GiveDirectly has delivered $550M+ to over 1.25 million people across eleven countries, including $205M+ to over 200,000 low-income American households. GiveDirectly brings over a decade of expertise in deploying end-to-end cash programs for both disaster response and longer-term poverty alleviation programs, including guaranteed income programs.

About AidKit

AidKit is an advanced technology platform for delivering cash assistance and guaranteed income to those who need it most. It works with nonprofits and government organizations to serve diverse populations including the unhoused, the undocumented, and the unbanked. Applicants can register for aid on their mobile devices and receive payments via bank transfer, debit card or virtual card. AidKit balances convenience with security, protecting against fraud while ensuring the highest degree of data protection. AidKit powers some of the nation’s largest direct cash and guaranteed income pilots with tools that reduce administrative burden, increase impact, and protect participants’ personal information.

About the Inclusive Economy Lab and the Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy and Practice

The Inclusive Economy Lab partners with policymakers, community-based organizations and others to generate rigorous evidence that leads to greater economic opportunity for communities harmed by disinvestment and segregation.

The Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice is dedicated to working toward a more just and humane society through research, teaching, and service to the community. As one of the oldest and most highly regarded graduate schools of social work, The Crown Family School prepares professionals to handle society's most difficult problems by developing new knowledge, promoting a deeper understanding of the causes and human costs of social inequities, and building bridges between rigorous research and the practice of helping individuals, families, and communities to achieve a better quality of life.


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