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5 Places in America Where People Are Getting Free Money

Nataliia Budianska /

Ready for some free money? If you live in the right place, that dream could be reality.

Local governments are offering monthly payments — often with few strings attached and no work requirements — to specific groups of people who are at the economic margins.

These programs can be controversial. Some see them as a form of economic justice, a way to ensure poorer Americans can make ends meet. But critics see them as an expensive and unfair use of taxpayer money, although private donations fund many of these programs.

Time will tell whether providing guaranteed income is successful. For now, here are some places offering regular payments to some of their residents.

Note that in many cases, the application process for these payments has closed although the programs themselves continue.

Cook County, Illinois

Rudy Balasko /

Guaranteed income program name: The Promised Guaranteed Income Pilot Program

Who benefits from this program: 3,250 low- to moderate-income families

Benefits awarded through this program: $500 cash per month for two years

Dates this program runs: December 2022 to December 2024

The money for this program is going to 3,250 families with low to moderate incomes. Winners were selected in a lottery from all of the program’s eligible applicants in November 2022.

Flint, Michigan

A street-level view of Flint, Michigan
Susan Montgomery /

Guaranteed income program name: Rx Kids

Who benefits from this program: Mothers in Flint, regardless of income

Benefits awarded through this program: $1,500 payment during mid-pregnancy, plus $500 per month for the first year of a child’s life

Dates this program runs: For at least three years, with the city hoping to run it “for as long as possible”

Funding for this program started with $15 million from the Flint-based Charles Stewart Mott Foundation and also includes $16.5 million from the state of Michigan. It has been touted as the first program of its kind that includes all parents in a big city.

Harris County, Texas

People riding bikes in Buffalo Bayou Park in downtown Houston, Texas
Nate Hovee /

Guaranteed income program name: Uplift Harris

Who benefits from this program: Those with household income below 200% of the federal poverty line

Benefits awarded through this program: $500 per month payment for 18 months

Dates this program runs: Ongoing, but applications are now closed and continuation will depend on funding

This program was open to 1,928 Harris County residents who met the program guidelines. For individuals, those with incomes at $29,160 or below qualified. For a family of four, that income requirement was $60,000 or less.

Sacramento, California

Bridge in Sacramento, California
Adonis Villanueva /

Guaranteed income program name: Guaranteed Income 3.0

Who benefits from this program: Those with a range of household incomes, such as no more than $28,205 for a single adult to no more than $133,980 for a household of eight.

Benefits awarded through this program: $500 per month payment for 12 months

Dates this program runs: Twelve months of payments for the second cohort began on July 1, 2023, and in January 2024 for the third cohort. Applications are now closed.

This initial version of this program began in June 2021, with monthly payments of $300. That program ended in May 2023 and was followed by two more cohorts, with payments increased to $500.

Pierce County, Washington

Tacoma, Washington
Sean Pavone /

Guaranteed income program name: Growing Resilience in Tacoma (GRIT) 2.0

Who benefits from this program: Residents age 18-65 who have the status of single head of household with children 17 years or younger — or 21 years or younger if the child has a disability — and who earn between 100% and 200% of the federal poverty level

Benefits awarded through this program: $500 per month payment for 12 months

Dates this program runs: April 2024 to June 2025; applications are now closed

This program is a partnership among several organizations, including the Washington State Economic Services Administration, the City of Tacoma, Pierce County Government and United Way of Pierce County. A lottery was conducted to determine the participants.

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