Places across the U.S. are testing no-strings cash as part of the social safety net


Christopher Santiago recalls being skeptical the first time he heard about basic income — giving people cash with no conditions on how to spend it. It was 2020, when presidential candidate Andrew Yang pitched it for all American adults, and Santiago thought, “That doesn’t make much sense.”

But for a year now, Santiago has been getting $500 a month through one of the largest cash aid pilots in the U.S., and he’s come around.

The single dad of three lives in Alsip, Ill., and was one of a whopping 233,000 people who applied for the program in Cook County, which includes Chicago. (There was a lottery to pick the 3,250 participants.) As a public employee, his income is toward the upper end of the program cutoff, but he says it hardly feels like enough for a family of four.

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