County approves $500 monthly anti-poverty payments

Uplift Harris’: to provide support for some low income households

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas – A program designed to help struggling families in the Houston area passed in a vote of 4-1 in Harris County Commissioners Court last Tuesday.

Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis and County Judge Lina Hidalgo outlined details about the $20.5 million Uplift Harris program, aimed at helping low-income residents with rent, food costs, and other issues.

The program is set to begin in September. The initiative is a guaranteed income program, and officials are hoping it will reduce poverty. Uplift Harris would also help people with transportation, housing, utilities, and care.

Under the program, up to 1,500 families living below 200% of the federal poverty line – approximately $40,000 for a family of four – will receive $500 per month to support their household needs. Uplift Harris will run for 18 months, beginning this fall. It will be administered by a third-party agency and subjected to rigorous evaluation.

Judge Hidalgo said, “The program is designed so it goes to folks with a certain income level, so it’s below the poverty line for those zip codes where there are economic challenges for a lot of people.”

Uplift Harris was spearheaded by Commissioner Ellis’ Office. The program, funded by American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds, is part of the county’s broader strategy to reduce poverty and deliver economic prosperity for everyone in Harris County.

“Decades of neglect, inequity, and discrimination have financially destabilized generations of Harris County families, perpetuated poverty, and created unfair barriers to prosperity,” Commissioner Ellis said. “Unchecked and ongoing inequality has created an economic divide that families can’t overcome on their own, and Harris County has an obligation to act.”

Similar programs have been launched in 45 cities across the country, including Austin, which has seen positive results so far.

According to a study by the Urban Institute, before the program was brought to Austin, 80% of families said they could not afford food. After six months of being in the program, the number dropped to 68%.

Also before the program, 77% of families in Austin said they couldn’t afford to serve balanced meals to their children. After six months of being a part of the program, that number dropped to 62%.

About 55% of families in Austin said they were behind on their rent before starting the program, and after six months, that number dropped to 33%.

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