Chicago to Give Away Free Gas and Public Transit Cards to Help Drivers

Chicago will distribute thousands of gas and public transit cards to residents through a lottery system, with residents able to apply starting late next month, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced Thursday.

The $12.5 million "Chicago Moves" effort will see eligible Chicagoans possibly receive one of 50,000 cards with $150 that can be used at Chicago gas stations, along with 100,000 cards with $50 able to be used on the city's public transit system, Lightfoot said at a Thursday press conference.

The announcement from Lightfoot is the latest in a recent series of campaigns from elected officials to lower the record-high gas prices seen across the U.S. in recent weeks, caused by inflation and uncertainty surrounding the Russian invasion of Ukraine, along with President Joe Biden halting Russian oil imports.

Illinois has gas prices above the national average, and as of Thursday, the state has the highest gas prices of any state not along the western portion of the U.S., according to data from AAA. The state average is about $4.46 per gallon, compared to the national average of $4.23, and trails only California, Arizona, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Alaska and Hawaii for the highest prices in the nation.

Lightfoot said Thursday on Twitter that the bulk of the public transit cards will be distributed with a priority of giving them to people from lower-income communities who already use public transportation at a high rate.

Applications will open April 27, pending City Council approval, Lightfoot said. Those applying must be adult Chicago residents who make below 140 percent of Chicago's median income within their household, and one application can be completed per household.

She also said the distribution of the cards will not happen all at once after it begins in May, mainly out of anticipation that the higher gas prices will continue into the summer and recognition that it's important to continue the relief into those months.

"I know from talking to many residents that they are feeling the strain. There's no if's and's or but's about it. And many are unable to fill their tank as much as they normally would because their dollars just don't stretch that far. So my administration's been working through a variety of options to see how we can provide the greatest relief to as many residents as we can," Lightfoot said.

Several mayors and governors like California Governor Gavin Newsom have announced similar proposals to give drivers more money to minimize the economic impact until gas prices are lowered. Maryland and Georgia have suspended their tax on gas to temporarily lower the cost, while others are considering a similar move, according to CNET.

Earlier Thursday, Biden announced plans to release an estimated 180 million barrels of oil from the Strategic Oil Reserves over the next six months, averaging about 1 million barrels per day, to help lower gas prices.

Biden's plan also called on Congress to pass legislation to fine oil and gas companies who own U.S. land and are refusing to increase production to benefit Americans in favor of higher profits.

Update 3/31/22, 2:30 p.m. ET: This story has been updated with additional information.

Lori Lightfoot Chicago Gas Prices
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced Thursday a plan to distribute thousands of cards to Chicago residents to pay for gas and public transit amid record high gas prices. Above, Lightfoot speaks during a ceremonial groundbreaking at the Obama Presidential Center in Jackson Park on September 28, 2021, in Chicago, Illinois. Scott Olson/Getty Images