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Austin has become the first Texas city to approve a pilot program that will provide a guaranteed income to qualified residents.
The program will give 85 families $1,000 per month for a year. City Council on Thursday voted to approve a contract for a nonprofit to manage the funding.
The families who are approved for the $1.18 million program will be able to decide how to spend the money, including spending it on rent or mortgage payments, food, transportation and utilities.
Austin Mayor Steve Adler said the goal of the program was to prevent homelessness and that it is not a “giveaway. It is investing in ourselves”
“We can find people moments before they end up on our streets and prevent them, divert them from being there. That would be not only wonderful for them, it would be wise and smart for the taxpayers in the city of Austin because it will be a lot less expensive to divert someone from homelessness than to help them find a home once they’re on our streets,” Adler said.
Like other fast-growing cities in the U.S., Austin has struggled for years with homelessness as housing costs skyrocket. City leaders and Gov. Greg Abbott have feuded over how to address the issue. Last year, Austin voters reinstated a ban that penalizes those who camp downtown and near the University of Texas, in addition to making it a crime to ask for money in certain areas and at certain times.
Across the country, dozens of cities and counties — some using money from the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package approved in March 2021 — are giving some low-income residents a guaranteed income of $500 to $1,000 each month to do with as they please, and tracking what happens.
Adler belongs to a coalition called Mayors for a Guaranteed Income, which plans to use the data — collected by a University of Pennsylvania-based research center — to lobby the White House and Congress for a federal guaranteed income.
In January, Atlanta announced it was launching a pilot basic income program that would give 300 residents $500 a month for a year.