Lightfoot Announces Program to Offer Free Gas Cards and Transit Passes to Ease High Gas Prices

CHICAGO (SCS) — With gas prices in Chicago hovering around $5 a gallon, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced Thursday that the city will be handing out thousands of free gas and transit cards to help relieve commuters.

“As we have all seen and experienced, there has been a shocking increase in gas prices in our city, and really across the region and the country,” Lightfoot said.

As part of the $12.5 million “Chicago Moves” program announced by Lightfoot on Thursday morning, up to 50,000 $150 prepaid gas cards that can be used at any gas station will be distributed through a lottery system, from May; with 10,000 cards distributed each month for the next five months.

Lightfoot said the gas cards will be issued “on a rolling basis” rather than sending out all 50,000 gas cards all at once, so some cards will come out this summer when city officials s expect petrol prices to stay high, but candidates will only be able to get one card per household.

The cards will be valid for one year and can only be used for gasoline at stations within the city limits.

The program comes as gas prices in Chicago have climbed to an average of $4.84 for a gallon of regular gas, from $3.33 a gallon a year ago. Lightfoot said the average American now spends $70 on gas.

“I know from talking to many residents that they are feeling the pressure. There are no ifs, ands or buts about it; and many are unable to fill their tank as full as they can. would normally do, because their money is not far,” Lightfoot said.

Applications for the gas card lottery will open on April 27, pending city council approval of the mayor’s plan. To be eligible for a Gas Card, applicants must be at least 18 years old, a Chicago resident, have a valid City of Chicago sticker with their current mailing address, and have an equal or lower household income. at 140% of the area median income for Chicago. For a chart of the city area’s median income, click here.

While that would mean a single person would be eligible for one of the gas cards with an income of up to $91,420 a year, Lightfoot said the income limit isn’t too high.

“The reality is, regardless of your income level, when you’re paying $6 a gallon for gas because there’s a lot of people in town, it hits you,” Lightfoot said. “Obviously we want to make sure that we focus on low-income and middle-income Chicagoans who really, I think, are feeling the brunt and the brunt of this gas price spike, and we hopefully people who are means and don’t need relief won’t be the ones who apply.”

In addition to the gas card lottery, the city will also be giving away 100,000 $50 transit cards that can be used to add value to existing Ventra cards or to purchase new Ventra cards. Of those 100,000 transit passes, Lightfoot said 75,000 will be reserved for frequent commuters who live in low-income neighborhoods, with the rest distributed throughout the city through municipal offices.

To be eligible for transit cards, applicants must be residents of Chicago and meet the same income requirements as the gas card program.

“Together we will work to ease residents’ pain at the pump and reduce household expenses as much as possible,” Lightfoot said.

According to published reports, prior to settling on the gas card and transit pass program, Lightfoot had considered temporarily reversing a 3-cent-per-gallon gas tax increase that came in in effect last year, but said Thursday that it had finally decided to provide gas cards. to commuters was a more effective way to relieve pain at the pump.

However, she said she hasn’t given up on the idea of ​​lowering the city’s gas tax.

“We didn’t reject it, and obviously it’s still available to us, but thinking about what we could do to really have the maximum impact, we thought it would be a better way to literally put a map in place. gas is in the hands of Chicagoans, and we obviously want to continue to emphasize the importance of reducing our carbon emissions by partnering with the CTA to provide relief to those transit riders at the same time,” he said. she stated.

While Lightfoot denied that the plan to distribute gas cards to Chicago drivers was inspired by recent gas giveaways organized by millionaire and potential mayoral candidate Dr. Willie Wilson, she said her program would avoid the long lines at gas stations created by its freebies.

“We’ll try to make it as painless as possible. You won’t have to get up at 4am. You won’t have to sit in a long line. We want to bring these cards directly to you. “, she said.

Funding for the $12.5 million program will come from the city’s corporate budget, as well as unused federal COVID-19 relief funds.


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