Feb 15, 2024 - News

Thousands apply for limited Uplift Harris spots

Photo illustration of Judge Lina Hidalgo with lines radiating from her.

Photo illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios; Photo: Alex Bierens de Haan/Getty Images

More than 82,500 residents applied for Uplift Harris, Harris County's guaranteed income pilot program, in which selected families from 10 low-income ZIP codes will receive $500 monthly cash payments for 18 months.

  • About 50% of the people who applied are eligible, per the county.

Between the lines: 88% of applicants identified as Black or Hispanic.

What they're saying: "The huge amount of interest in this program shows how great the need is in Harris County for a program like Uplift Harris, especially among vulnerable communities. Reducing poverty and helping families who are struggling to meet basic needs should not be a political debate," Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said in a statement.

  • "We'll be looking into how we can fund this program long-term and hopefully help even more families in the future."

The intrigue: A similar guaranteed pilot program in Austin found that most of the additional income was spent on meeting the city's high housing costs.

The other side: In January, Republican state Sen. Paul Bettencourt questioned the program's constitutionality and asked state Attorney General Ken Paxton to issue an opinion.

  • Bettencourt's question centers on whether the program violates a clause in the Texas Constitution that addresses local governments funneling public funds to individuals.

What's next: 1,928 eligible families will be randomly selected and notified by Feb. 26. The first cash payments will be distributed April 3.

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