Chicago is planning to distribute $12.5 million in transportation relief for low-income residents in an effort to combat increasing gas prices in the state, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced on March 31.
The announcement of the program, called Chicago Moves, comes as gas prices continue to soar across the United States leaving Americans forking out more at the pump.
According to data from the automotive group AAA, the national gas average as of April 1 is $4.215, up from $2.876 a year ago but Illinois residents are paying an average of $4.46 at the pump, compared to the national average. Gas in the state was $3.868 a month ago and $3.083 a year ago.
“The last two years have been exceedingly difficult for many of our residents, in particular our most vulnerable populations,” said Lightfoot in announcing the program. “Through the pandemic, we have collectively faced tragedy, and many among us have faced accompanying economic hardship. Now, as inflation steadily rises and the cost of gas continues to soar, our disadvantaged residents are carrying a significant financial burden.”
Of the $12.5 million earmarked for the program, $7.5 million would go toward 50,000 prepaid gas cards worth $150, and $5 million would be for 100,000 public transit cards worth $50.
In announcing the new program, Lightfoot cited data from AAA and the Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT) which shows that Chicagoans are now paying an average of 4.5 percent of their annual income on gas compared to 3.1 percent of their annual income one year ago.
“Chicago Moves endeavors to provide much-needed relief and ease some of this pain. By subsidizing the cost of gas and transit, this program will enable participants to save their resources for other critical expenses,” Lightfoot said.
The city has partnered with Fifth Third Bank and Onbe, a payment issuing platform, for the program and the prepaid cards and payment processing will be provided without any transaction fees.
To be eligible for the gas cards, residents must be 18 or over, have a current and valid City sticker with correct mailing information for their vehicle, and have a household income at or below 140 percent of the Area Median Income for Chicago.
For example, the maximum income for a single-person household is $91,420 and for a two-person household is $104,440.
Residents must apply for the cards—which will be distributed via a “lottery system”—after April 27, and they will be valid for one year.
The cards can only be spent on fuel at gas stations located in Chicago and only one will be granted per eligible household.
Of 100,000 public transit cards, 75,000 of those distributed will prioritize residents in low-income neighborhoods that rely heavily on the city’s public transport system, officials said.
As the cost of gas skyrockets across the United States, further exacerbated by the Russia–Ukraine conflict, a number of states across the nation have implemented similar efforts to provide Americans with financial relief
Both the states of Maryland and Georgia have halted the collection of their respective gas taxes.
Earlier in March, California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that he was working with lawmakers to give money back to taxpayers to offset gas prices in the state, which are the highest in the country.