Pandemic shows how free cash can help you

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One outcome of the COVID-19 pandemic is proof that people can benefit economically by receiving a regular influx of free cash in challenging times, according to a fact sheet by the National League of Cities.

It noted that some 50 pilot programs to give guaranteed checks have been planned or started in the U.S. since COVID-19 because city and nonprofit officials “recognize the value of recurring cash payments for communities in acute financial crises and long-term economic instability.”

That’s why more and more cities are turning to programs to regularly give cash to those in need.

One group that helps provide financial support to cash programs in cities is Mayors for a Guaranteed Income (MGI). So far, its member mayors have started pilot programs in 12 cities and announced plans for 20 other locations.

“We look forward to data from our pilots fueling the creation of a guaranteed income at the national level for all who need it," says Sukhi Samra, the group’s director.

Major metros giving out their own stimulus checks

These are some of the largest cities experimenting with new types of stimulus checks.

Los Angeles

Los Angeles
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With a $40 million price tag, the nation’s largest no-strings-attached income program is unfolding in Los Angeles.

Angeleno families experiencing financial or medical hardships due to the pandemic are about to get a windfall of cash — $1,000 each month for a year. Some 3,200 families will be chosen at random.

To qualify, you must be at least 18, live within the city, have an income not greater than the federal poverty level, be pregnant or have at least one dependent child, and have struggled from economic or medical hardships due to the pandemic. You can apply until Nov. 7.


JaySi / Shutterstock

Chicago will give 5,000 low-income residents $500 a month for a year to spend however they want.

The City Council passed a budget on Oct. 27 to fund the $31.5 million program. Full details aren’t available yet. But a spokesperson for the mayor’s office told a local radio station that applicants must have been “economically very hard-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic” to be eligible.

New York

New York City
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A plan to give $2,000 a year to New Yorkers living in poverty failed with the defeat of mayoral candidate Andrew Yang. It was a hallmark of his campaign.

Meanwhile, upstate in Hudson, 75 lower-income residents will receive $500 checks each month. The city recently gave the original 25 people a four-year extension and added 50 more under the same terms. Now they will receive a total of $30,000 over five years. To be eligible, applicants must live in the city, be over 18 and earn less than $39,364. A lottery decides who gets the cash.


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Pittsburgh is focusing on low-income residents, to alleviate poverty.

City council approved the mayor’s plan to give unrestricted $500 payments every month for two years to those living within five low-income ZIP codes. Half the 200 participants will be Black women. The others will be randomly selected people from any race and gender.

You’ll have to check with the city to learn how you can apply since the program is still being developed.


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If you meet certain requirements in Seattle, you could receive $1,000 to $3,000, depending on your household size.

The new $16 million Seattle Relief Fund was announced on Oct. 25. to help those impacted by the pandemic.

Regardless of your citizenship or immigration status, you may be eligible if you’re at least 18 and meet the income eligibility requirement for your household size. You also have either be a city resident or an artist who has rented an art studio in Seattle anytime since March 2020. Applications close on Nov. 15.

How to add extra cash to your monthly budget

Woman with budget
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If you don’t qualify for these new types of stimulus funds, you can still find extra cash and potentially add hundreds to your monthly budget:

  • Deal with your debt. Credit cards have helped many households get through the last couple of years, but the expensive interest will only make life harder going forward. Folding your balances into a single debt consolidation loan can cut the cost of your debt and help you pay it off faster.

  • Slash your insurance premiums. When was the last time you looked around for a better price on your auto insurance? If it’s been a while, it may be costing you more than $1,000 extra every year. Shop around to ensure you’ve really got the best possible rate.

  • Stop overpaying for essentials. Even if you put yourself on a lean budget, you’ll still need to stock up on supplies every now and then. And when that time comes, use this free browser extension to automatically scour the internet for lower prices and coupons.

  • Turn pennies into a portfolio. Even if you don't have much money to spare, you can still earn returns from today’s hot stock market. A popular app can help you invest your “spare change” from everyday purchases into a diversified portfolio.

About the Author

Noel Fletcher

Noel Fletcher


Noel Fletcher is an insurance and taxes reporter at MoneyWise. Prior to joining the MoneyWise team, Noel wrote for various U.S. and international business magazines, newspapers, syndicates and wire services, including Reuters. For fun, she writes books, takes photographs and enjoys adventure, travel, history and a good cup of coffee.

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