Sales tax freeze
Governor J.B. Pritzker and Illinois Democrats have written into the budget direct payments for working families, as well as sales tax discounts for gasoline and grocery purchases. Each individual adult will be eligible for a check of up to $50, with households receiving an additional $100 per child. The state’s one-percent sales tax on groceries will be suspended through July 1, 2023. The state’s fuel tax will no longer be raised to reflect inflation and will be frozen at $.39 a gallon through January 2023.
New citywide cash assistance program
Starting Monday, April 25, Chicagoans can apply to a new cash assistance program. Through the Chicago Resilient Communities Pilot, a $31.5 million dollar program from the City of Chicago’s Department of Family and Support Services, “5,000 Chicagoans will be selected through an application and citywide lottery to receive $500 per month for twelve months,” according to the City’s website. To be eligible for the program, you must live in Chicago, be eighteen or older, have experienced economic hardship related to COVID-19, and meet the annual income requirements. For a household of one, that would be about $34,000 or less, while for a household of four, it would be about $69,000 or less. Only one applicant per household can apply, and undocumented people are eligible. Applications will be open between April 25 and May 13, and you can stay updated at bit.ly/3vkhcFa.
The Bronzeville Trail
Similar to the Bloomingdale Trail on the North Side, the South Side will soon see its own abandoned rail line repurposed into a walking, biking, and jogging trail. The City announced plans to expand forty-eight miles worth of trails and parks for pedestrians and bikers. Part of the plan includes turning the abandoned Kenwood CTA train tracks in Bronzeville into two miles of elevated trail. The trail is mapped out to start near 40th and Dearborn streets, end around 41st Street and Lake Park Avenue, and have an access point near the 41st Street pedestrian bridge that would connect the trail to the Lakefront Trail. Other South Side neighborhoods like Englewood and Chinatown are likely to see the development of new trails as well.
UIC grad workers are on strike
On April 18, the 1,500 members of the Graduate Employees Organization (GEO) at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) went on strike after more than a year of stalled contract negotiations. GEO, which represents graduate student workers who teach and research while pursuing their education, is pushing for a five percent pay increase and reductions in health care costs and student fees. According to the union, the fees can amount to ten percent of the $20,000 minimum yearly salary, one of the lowest grad worker salaries among the city’s universities. GEO has been negotiating with UIC administration for a year, but union organizers said they are stuck on pay and fees. On April 1, three quarters of union members voted and ninety-seven percent were in support of the strike. This strike is UIC’s second in three years; in March 2019, graduate workers went on strike to cut fees and increase pay and won significant concessions.