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Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot proposes gift cards to help residents pay for gas

Mayor Lori Lightfoot emphasizes the importance of wearing a mask as she provides an update about the COVID-19 vaccinations at Norwegian American Hospital in Chicago on Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2021.
Youngrae Kim
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AP
Mayor Lori Lightfoot emphasizes the importance of wearing a mask as she provides an update about the COVID-19 vaccinations at Norwegian American Hospital in Chicago on Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2021.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot is proposing giving residents public transit cards and gift cards for gas to help ease the cost of increasing fuel prices, her office announced Thursday.

Illinois residents are paying an average of $4.46 at the pump, compared to a national average of $4.23. Gas in the state was $3.08 a year ago, according to AAA.

"Now, as inflation steadily rises and the cost of gas continues to soar, our disadvantaged residents are carrying a significant financial burden," Lightfoot said.

The city program, Chicago Moves, would cost about $12.5 million. Of that, $7.5 million would go toward 50,000 prepaid gas cards worth $150, and $5 million would be for 100,000 transit cards worth $50.

The prepaid cards can only be used at Chicago gas stations. They will be given out based on a lottery system.

"Beginning in May, cards will be distributed in five successive monthly waves of 10,000 residents," the mayor's office said.

To be eligible for gas cards, applicants must be a Chicago resident, at least 18 years old, have a current and valid City sticker and have a household income at or below 140% of the city's median income. (For example, the max income for a single person household is $91,420.)

The transit cards will be allocated based on geographic data and usage. Low-income neighborhoods in which residents use the Chicago Transit Authority more often will be prioritized, Lightfoot said.

"The CTA remains the most affordable and convenient way to get around the city, and we work hard every day to provide the essential service that so many Chicagoans rely on—especially when public transit is the only option," said CTA President Dorval R. Carter, Jr.

To be eligible for transit cards, applicants must be a Chicago resident and have a household income at or below 140% of the city's median income.

Applications open on April 27, Lightfoot said.

States are looking for ways to curb the cost of gas

California Gov. Gavin Newsom has made a proposal similar to Lightfoot's that would give residents free rides on public transit for three months, grant a $400-per-car gas rebate and suspend a fraction of the gas tax for one year.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp suspended the gas tax for about 1o weeks, while Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan suspended the gas tax for about a month.

Elected officials in more than 20 states have proposed gas tax holidays of anywhere from one month to two years, which, depending on how high their state gas tax is, could save consumers 25 to 50 cents a gallon, or more.

Several Democratic U.S. senators, led by Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, Mark Kelly of Arizona, and Raphael Warnock of Georgia, are calling for a temporary suspension of the 18.4 cents per gallon federal gas tax as well.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Ayana Archie
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