AUSTIN (KXAN) — For people living paycheck to paycheck, relief may soon be on the way.
Austin City Council gave the green light to a $1.1 million guaranteed income pilot program on Thursday.
These taxpayer funds will give $1,000 a month to 85 families or individuals facing extreme financial hardship.
Austin mayor Steve Adler said it’ll play a pivotal part in preventing homelessness.
“We have to find ways to divert people from ending up on the streets in the first place,” he said. “It’ll also be a lot less expensive for us.”
Longtime Austin resident Lana Gibson-Alexander is the mother of four children and grandmother of six kids. On the verge of being evicted in 2021, she qualified for a privately funded pilot put on by UpTogether.
“It was definitely a blessing and a godsend in my life at that time,” Gibson-Alexander said.
The national nonprofit provided Gibson-Alexander and 162 other Austin households with $1,200 spread out over a year, giving them the freedom to choose how to use it.
“Car payments, insurance bills, rent,” Gibson-Alexander said. “However I decided I needed to use those funds for that month.”
However, city council member Mackenzie Kelly expressed reservations about the program. In a statement provided to KXAN, she said the following:
“I do not believe that the guaranteed income pilot is the solution to Austin’s affordability problem. I want our community to have a better quality of life, and we need to focus on finding permanent solutions to make the city more affordable for everyone.”
Austin will be the 33rd city that’s adopted a version of this pilot program, which originated in Stockton, California, from a network known as the Mayors for a Guaranteed Income.
“Do you want to live in a country where everybody is doing pretty well and where we’re sharing in this prosperity that was created by all of us?” the network’s communications director Saadia McConville said.
The organization aims to eventually receive federal funding.
“You start with the 85, you prove that this is something that works,” McConville said. “The hope is that we are eventually able to scale up to a federal program.”
For folks such as Gibson-Alexander, allowing families to freely use these taxpayer funds could make a major difference.
“Those 85 people will never forget this for the rest of their lives, I can tell you that,” she concluded.
The City of Austin’s Equity Office will determine who’s eligible to participate in the program.
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