City of Austin weighs $1,000 a month guaranteed income program for struggling residents

Thursday Austin City Council will decide if it wants to move forward with a guaranteed income pilot program. If approved, the program will be the first of its kind in city history.

85 people are set to participate in the pilot. They will each receive $1,000 a month.

Council authorized $1.1 million in funding for the program over the summer. 

District 7 Council Member Leslie Pool was the only council member to vote against the budget amendment.

In a statement Monday, Pool told FOX 7 Austin "I am fully supportive of a federal guaranteed income program; I see it as a natural extension of public support programs that have assisted people since Frances Perkins brought the Social Security initiative forward as FDR’s Secretary of Labor more than 85 years ago. 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. I think a federal income program would create a more uniform system."

Thursdays vote will authorize a contract with the California based non-profit UpTogether. It is one of the last steps before the pilot can launch, though there is no official start date. 

Austin Mayor Steve Adler told FOX 7 Austin he expects to pilot to launch sometime in "late May, early June."  

"We know with the homelessness funding that we're trying to do now, getting people out of the tents that you see providing a home for them, providing wraparound services for those folks that depending on the condition they're in or the support they need, the cost could be $20,000, $30,000, $40,000 a year," said Adler. He added, "If we can give people $1,000 a month - they would otherwise have ended up on our streets. That's a really good deal for taxpayers."

Adler says an application process and selection criteria will not be established until a community partner contract is approved. 

"These are families who are living on the jagged edges of working class." explained District 2 Council Member Vanessa Fuentes. She added, " We have an affordability crisis, we have a housing crisis. So our focus is to help ensure that folks are able to stay in their homes by providing this pilot program." 

There are approximately 50 U.S. cities operating similar pilot programs. Most, modeled after a program the City of Stockton rolled out in 2019. The program resulted in a 12% spike in participants with fulltime employment after one year. 
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