Pilot program to give these struggling Texas residents $1,000 a month

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The city of Austin is preparing to launch a pilot program that will provide residents facing extreme hardship $1,000 a month for one year.

The guaranteed income program – similar to others across the country – is intended to help the most vulnerable in the community, such as families on the verge of eviction and people who have recently found themselves on the streets.

A total of 85 beneficiaries will participate in the pilot project, according to city documents.

The city’s equity office declined to give Nexstar’s KXAN more details on how recipients would be selected, what qualifications would be met and when the application process might open.

A spokesperson for the office said more information would be revealed when the program is presented to city council at its regular meeting next Thursday.

The Austin City Council included $1.1 million in funding for the initiative in last summer’s budget. The idea came from the city’s Reimagining Public Safety (RPS) task force.

“A lot of the research we’ve done has shown us that more police doesn’t make the city safer,” said RPS co-chair Paula X. Rojas. “But there are many other programs that can actually prevent the use of the police. One of them is this guaranteed monthly income.

Mayor Steve Adler, a proponent of the program, pointed to the high costs associated with treating and caring for those who end up on Austin’s streets.

“It’s really expensive for our community when that happens,” Adler told KXAN. “Maybe if we can help someone right before it happens, we can keep them home.”

The initiative will complement and expand on another Guaranteed Income pilot that just ended in the region, this one funded by charities and the California-based nonprofit UpTogether, which advocates for people in “historically undervalued”.

Similar pilots are underway in cities across the United States, including Los Angeles and Chicago. Most are modeled after a 2019 schedule in Stockton, California.

A report on the first year of the Stockton program showed that income recipients saw their financial situation stabilize and some were able to start saving for unexpected expenses. Others have benefited from jobs.

“People who received guaranteed income were more likely to be in full-time employment at the end of the year,” said Madeline Neighborly of the Economic Security Project, an advocacy group that helped fund the Stockton program. .

Austin City Council member Leslie Pool was the only one to vote against funding the program last summer.

At the time, Pool indicated that while she agrees with the idea of ​​guaranteed income, she thinks the federal government is in a better position to manage it, which she reiterated to KXAN on Friday,

“My concerns about a locally funded guaranteed income program stem from questions about how to sustain a program like this over time, as our city faces a very lean future in terms of providing the most basic municipal services, due to the state – imposed revenue caps on municipalities,” Pool said in a statement.

Some Austin residents, dealing with their own financial struggles, have expressed frustration with the plan on social media, saying the program is “unfairly handing out free money.”

“There is going to be a rollback, and I hope people will see the benefits,” said Monica Guzman, RPS task force member and policy director of GoAustin/VamosAustin (GAVA), a coalition of community organizers. .

“My message to them is to think about your families,” Guzman said. “If you had a family member, a brother, a sister, a child, and they were struggling, wouldn’t you want this type of program available to them? »

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