AUSTIN (KXAN) — As a single mother of five living in Austin, times had been tough for Taniquewa Brewster.
“It was hard sometimes,” she said. “My kids are older and with school starting, they wanted extra things that are obviously expensive.”
Yet, things changed in September 2022.
That’s when Brewster was picked to participate in Austin’s guaranteed income pilot program.
Partially paid by taxpayer dollars from the City of Austin, 135 low-income families received $1,000 direct deposits every month for an entire year.
This program provided a lifeline for Brewster in April when she was sick in the hospital for eight days.
“I racked up lots of insurance bills, medical bills and medical expenses,” she said. “That money was there right in time because it helped me pay off those bills and buy medication that I would not have been able to afford.”
The guaranteed income pilot is put on by UpTogether, a national nonprofit that worked with 10 community-based partners to raise more than $500,000 of additional funds for the program.
Originally, the City of Austin allocated $1.1 million of taxpayer dollars to support 85 individuals facing extreme financial hardship. The extra allocation of philanthropic funds allowed for 50 more participants.
Ivanna Neri is UpTogether’s senior director of partnerships in Austin.
“The reality is that this program is giving people the headspace to think about long-term goals,” she said. “They can improve their health, education or get a new job.”
The pilot program was such a success that Austin City Council allocated $1.3 million within its new budget to pay for another guaranteed income program.
“At the beginning, this was such a radical idea,” Neri said. “Now, we’re seeing how the community is really embracing and taking care of Austinites.”
The final paychecks for the pilot program arrived in August.
Yet, Brewster is thankful the money gave her much-needed time to prepare for her family’s future.
“I started a trade program that helped me become a leasing agent,” Brewster concluded. “It’s helped me fight for tenants’ rights through volunteer advocacy groups.”
For the next six months, Urban Institute will survey each participant to evaluate how they handle the absence of guaranteed income.