A program that will provide Chicagoans with cards for free gas and CTA rides got OK’d by City Council on April 27.
The controversial measure squeaked by, passing in one of the closest votes under Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s tenure. The program is meant to help tens of thousands of Chicagoans with transportation costs as gas prices remain high.
Chicagoans can apply online or at a Chicago Public Library branch. People will be picked through a lottery system, with winners selected every month between May and September.
The city will give away 50,000 physical gas cards with $150 on them through a lottery system, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said when announcing the program in late March. They’ll be usable at any gas station in the city.
Seventy-five percent of the gas cards will be prioritized for people in community areas that “face higher mobility hardship,” according to the city. The rest will be distributed evenly between the city’s 50 wards.
To be eligible for the gas cards, people must be a Chicago resident who is at least 18 years old, have a valid city sticker with correct mailing information for their car and have a household income at or below 100 percent of the area median income of Chicago.
The city will also add $50 to Ventra cards or distribute cards with that amount for up to 100,000 people. Of those, 75,000 cards will be given away based on geographic area, with the city aiming to provide them to residents who use the CTA often in low-income areas.
To be eligible for the CTA offer, people must be a resident of Chicago and have a household income at or below 100 percent of the area median income of Chicago.
More information about the program is available online: chicago.gov/city/en.html.
The program came under heavy scrutiny from aldermen, some of whom hailed it as a good move to help Chicagoans while others said it would provide little relief.
Lightfoot said this plan has been in the works for months, and she wasn’t inspired by Willie Wilson — the millionaire and mayoral candidate who’s given away more than $2 million in gas to Chicagoans and suburbanites in recent weeks.
Drivers have experienced weeks of wallet-breaking prices at the pump. Russia invading Ukraine has sent prices to record highs, leaving some without a way of affordably traveling for work, school and other needs.
Asked how the city will pay for the $12.5 million giveaway, Lightfoot previously said the money will “mostly” come from the city’s general corporate fund “but also some [American Rescue Plan]” money. A spokesperson later clarified the funding will come entirely from the corporate fund.