AUSTIN (KXAN) — The City of Austin’s Equity Office provided updates Monday on who might qualify for the city’s proposed guaranteed income pilot program, which would give 85 eligible families or individuals $1,000 a month over a year’s timespan.
On Thursday, Austin City Council is expected to vote on a contract with community program group UpTogether to administer the funds, with $1.18 million approved for the program in Austin’s fiscal year 2021-22 budget.
The proposed program is aimed at addressing residents facing financial hardships who, as a result, experience housing insecurities. In Austin’s 2023 strategic plan, homelessness and displacement were marked as “top 10 indicators for the success of the city,” according to Monday’s memo.
Possible criteria for eligible guaranteed income pilot participants could include:
- Households with an eviction filing against them
- Those with a history of missing utility bill payments
- People experiencing homeless who’ve already been identified for supportive housing
As part of the proposed pilot, the $1,000 monthly funds would be unrestricted, without a designated use affiliated with them. Similar programs done around the country, including in Stockton, California, found the majority of participating residents used the funds to pay for food, store purchases and utilities.
“Because guaranteed income programs provide unrestricted funds, recipients are able to spend on necessities such as rent, food, transportation, and utilities, making decisions based on their specific needs in order to help them stabilize and remain in place,” Austin’s Chief Equity Officer Brion Oaks said in the memo.
The city has identified The Urban Institute as the evaluator for the proposed pilot, which would include a two-part analysis to gauge the effectiveness of Austin’s guaranteed income program, if approved.
The first component would be a qualitative analysis to determine the effectiveness of the program and potential policy and practice changes, based on interviews with participants and other stakeholders. The second component, a quantitative analysis, would measure participant outcomes against non-participants to help determine the program’s impacts.
These metrics include:
- Financial stability, such as ability to cover a $400 emergency and pay bills on time
- Health and wellness based on stress levels, preventative care access and use or food security
- Employment changes, such as how many jobs a participant holds, income changes or participation in workforce development and education programs
- Use of funds, to determine how the money is used
“These unrestricted funds do not represent a ‘gift,’ but rather a critical investment in families and individuals to improve their economic stability, mental and physical health, social capital, and prevention of displacement,” Oaks said. “The investment provided by a guaranteed income helps ensure that households facing housing and economic insecurity have the resources and ability to build a foundation from which they can springboard into better-paying jobs, increased savings, and ability to live full lives.”