AUSTIN (KXAN) — The City of Austin is getting ready to move on a pilot program that will give residents facing extreme hardship $1,000 per month for a year.
The guaranteed income program — similar to others around the country — is meant to help the most vulnerable in the community, such as families on the brink of eviction, and people who have recently found themselves on the street.
A total of 85 recipients will take part in the pilot, according to city documents.
The city’s Equity Office on Friday declined to give KXAN further details as to how the recipients would be selected, what qualifications would need to be met and when the application process could open.
An office spokesperson indicated more information would be revealed when the program goes before city council at next Thursday’s regular meeting.
Austin City Council included the $1.1 million in funding for the initiative in last summer’s budget. The idea came from the city’s Reimagining Public Safety (RPS) task force.
“A lot of the research we did showed us that increasing police does not make the city safer,” RPS co-chair Paula X. Rojas told KXAN. “But there are many other programs that can actually prevent the need for policing. One of those is this guaranteed monthly income.”
Mayor Steve Adler, a proponent of the program, highlighted the high costs associated with treating and caring for those who find themselves on the Austin’s streets.
“It’s really expensive for our community when that happens,” Adler told KXAN. “Maybe if we can give somebody some assistance just before that happens, we can keep them in their homes.”
The initiative will compliment and expand on another guaranteed income pilot that just wrapped up in the area, this one funded through charitable groups and the California-based nonprofit UpTogether, which advocates for people in “historically undervalued communities.”
Similar pilots are underway in cities across the U.S., including Los Angeles and Chicago. Most are modeled on a 2019 program in Stockton, California.
A report on the Stockton program’s first year showed income recipients saw their financial situations stabilize, and some were able to start saving for unexpected costs.
Others benefited with jobs.
“The folks who received the guaranteed income were more like to have full-time employment at the end of the year,” said Madeline Neighly with the Economic Security Project, an advocacy group that helped fund the Stockton program.
Austin City Council member Leslie Pool was the only vote against the funding for the program last summer.
At the time, Pool indicated though she agrees with the idea of guaranteed income, she believes the federal government is better suited to handle it, something she reiterated to KXAN on Friday.
“My concerns regarding a locally-funded guaranteed income program are due to questions about how to sustain a program like this over time, since our city is looking at a very lean future in terms of providing even the most basic city services, due to state-imposed revenue caps on municipalities,” Pool said in a statement.
Some Austin residents, dealing with financial hardships of their own, expressed frustration with the plan on social media, believing the program is unfairly “giving out free money.”
“There’s going to be pushback, and I hope that people will see the benefit,” said Monica Guzman, a member of the RPS task force and the policy director for GoAustin/VamosAustin (GAVA), a coalition of community organizers.
“My message to them is think about your families,” Guzman said. “If you had a family member, brother, sister, child, and they were struggling, wouldn’t you want this kind of program available for them?”