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Willie Wilson announces third gas deal when Mayor Lori Lightfoot sets up her own gas card plan

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CHICAGO (CBS) – Mayoral candidate and millionaire philanthropist Willie Wilson is planning a third gas distribution this weekend after providing $ 1.2 million in free gas to drivers in Chicago and the suburbs in two previous distributions in March.

Wilson said he would distribute another $ 1 million of free gas on Saturday to 30-40 gas stations in the city and suburbs, although he said he was working to complete the list of stations.

This is the first gas distribution Wilson has announced since he officially joined the mayoral race last week, his third time running for mayor. It also happens as Mayor Lori Lightfoot continues to set up her own plan to distribute gas and transit cards to get her offer through the Chicago City Council.

Wilson denied that his gas gifts were politically motivated as he was running for mayor again, noting that he had been distributing money outside of Chicago for years; including for survivors of Hurricane Ida in New Orleans, and for funding masks in Los Angeles and other cities outside of Chicago.

“It’s not a political thing,” he said. “If it was a political thing, we didn’t run for mayor or anything in New Orleans. We did not run for mayor of California. “

Wilson also called on Governor J. B. Pritzker, Mayor Laurie Lightfoot and Cook County Council President Tony Prequinckle will temporarily suspend gas taxes in states, local and counties during the gas distribution; although he acknowledged that he did not know whether any of them had the right to waive the gas tax on their own, or whether they would need legislative approval for such a move.

“They need to be able to figure it out for themselves,” he said. “Of course, if they are concerned about their citizens, they should be able to find a way to do so without creating more difficulties for their citizens.”

Representatives from Pritzker’s, Lightfoot’s and Preckwinkle’s offices did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

As of Tuesday, gas prices in Chicago averaged $ 4.77 per gallon for the regular and $ 5.66 per gallon for the premium, down slightly from a month ago but still rising significantly from a year ago therefore, according to AAA.

Wilson said that due to the fact that gas prices may rise even more in the coming weeks, drivers need more relief at the pump.

“People are really suffering here in terms of trying to survive, trying to pay rent, trying to buy food, and we’re just trying to play our part,” Wilson said.

Wilson also said he has no plans to suspend his gifts as the mayoral election approaches; whether gas distribution, or money to the homeless, or local churches, or Ukrainian refugees.

“No. We will not stop supporting people, ”he said.

Wilson’s previous two gas distributions have caused long queues at gas stations that have been supplying gas, albeit through improved coordination with local authorities. the second hand was able to avoid the nightmares caused by the first.

Tickets were handed out to cars at each station to avoid people cutting the line, and each station was assigned one entry point and one exit point to minimize disruptions.

Wilson said Chicago city officials again agreed to help with traffic control on Saturday, though Lightfoot’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Meanwhile, Lightfoot is still trying to implement its own plan to provide free gas and transit cards.

Her plan to hand out $ 150 petrol and $ 50 Ventra cards to motorists to CTA users met with a significant turn from several chairmen at a City Council Budget Committee hearing earlier this month, even after she agreed to lower the income threshold by 140% from the median district. income – or $ 140,000 for a family of four – up to 100% of the area’s average income – or $ 93,200 for a family of four.

The mayor’s proposal is expected to be put to a vote in the budget committee on Wednesday after she agreed to further changes to enlist the support of skeptical seniors.

The latest changes provide for the allocation of 75% of the 50,000 gas cards for people living in the south and west, which are considered “areas with severe mobility”, and the remaining 25% will be distributed throughout the city.

This is the same distribution plan that the mayor already planned to use to hand out the transit card.

The city will also be authorized to transfer money between gas card and transit card programs if officials feel that demand for one gift distribution is insufficient, and funds will remain to pay for a raise under another program.

The city plans to distribute a total of 50,000 prepaid cards for $ 150, with 10,000 to be distributed each month beginning in May. The city also plans to distribute a total of $ 100,000 prepaid transit cards worth $ 50, of which 75,000 will be distributed in “high-mobility communities” in the south and west, and the remaining 25,000 will be distributed throughout the city.

If the mayor’s plan is approved by the budget committee on Wednesday, next week the city council will vote on the gifts. The Lightfoot office plans to start accepting applications for distribution on April 27, the same day as the full vote in the city council, and the distribution of cards will begin next month.

Wilson criticized Lightfoot’s gas card distribution plan, noting that he pays for his gifts out of his own pocket, while Lightfoot’s program will be funded by taxpayer dollars.

“I believe that using taxpayer dollars for political gain is, you know, illegal?” he said.

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