A guaranteed basic income program in Austin gave people $1,000 a month for a year.
Most participants spent the money with no strings attached on housing, according to a study of the program.
Participants reporting they could afford a balanced meal also increased by 17%.
A guaranteed basic income scheme in one of Texas’ largest cities, reduced rates of housing insecurity. But some Texas lawmakers aren’t happy.
Austin was the first city in Texas to launch a taxpayer-funded basic income program when Austin’s Guaranteed Income Pilot began in May 2022. The program served 135 low-income families, each receiving up to $1,000 per month. Funding for 85 families came from the city of Austin while philanthropic donations funded the other 50.
The program was touted as a way to lift people out of poverty and help them find housing. “We know that if we trust people to make the right decisions for themselves and their families, it leads to better outcomes,” the city says on its website. “This leads to better jobs, increased savings, food security and housing security.”
While the program ended in August 2023, a new study from the Urban Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, found that the city’s program actually helped its participants pay for housing and food. On average, program participants spent more than half of the money they received on housing, the report’s authors wrote.
After the year-long program, participants were “significantly more housing secure” than when they enrolled, while other low-income Texas residents became “slightly less housing secure” over the course of the year. from the same period, the authors noted.
The program also helped reduce food insecurity among participants: 17 percent fewer families were unable to afford a balanced meal, the report said.
Taniquewa Brewster, a single mother who began receiving payments from the program in September 2022, told KXANa local NBC affiliate, that the money she received helped pay for her medical bills and medications after an eight-day hospitalization.
While Austin was the first city in Texas to test a basic income program, it is not the only city. But not everyone in the state supports them.
Last week, State Senator Paul Bettencourt sent a letter to the state attorney general asking him to declare a new program in Houston unconstitutional.
Harris County, which includes Houston, launched a guaranteed basic income program earlier this month that gives low-income residents up to $500 a month.
The program’s lawyer told the Houston Chronicle that Bettencourt was “more focused on political games and the militarization of government institutions than on improving the lives of Harris County residents.”
Many other cities across the United States are also experimenting with basic income projects to combat rising homelessness and support their most vulnerable residents. In Baltimore, the Baltimore Young Families Success Fund gives young mothers up to $1,000 a month. The campaign’s political director, Tonaeya Moore, previously told Business Insider that surveys show participants primarily spend their money on the same general necessities, like housing and food.
And in Denver, a basic income program that gives people up to $1,000 a month was recently extended after also coming to light. increased housing security among its participants.
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