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Texas county launches guaranteed income program while facing up to a $181 million deficit


(The Center Square) – Harris County, Texas, has launched a guaranteed income program this month and paid for the program with $20.5 million from the American Rescue Plan Act.

However, the federal money used to fund similar programs throughout the country is running out and Harris County officials have projected a $20 million to $181 million deficit for fiscal year 2024. The large variation in the projected deficit is due to differing revenue forecasts, according to city documents.

Uplift Harris is a guaranteed income pilot that offers eligible households $500 a month for 18 months. The Uplift Harris guaranteed income pilot programs application process ends on Feb. 1, and had received over 82,500 applications according to Harris County Public Health.

Harris County is one of many municipalities across the country that has begun programs like Uplift Harris to help support its residents after the pandemic, but the funds that started these programs are beginning to run out.

Texas Sen. Paul Bettencourt wrote a letter to Attorney General Paxton in January, when applications for the Uplift program began, asking if the counties have the authority to enact such a program and if it violates the gift prohibition clause of the Texas Constitution.

The first payments are set to roll out in early April, according to documents.

“We are excited to move forward with the selection process and to see how this direct cash assistance will soon aid in making strides towards building a more equitable and prosperous future for all Harris County community members. We are thrilled by the overwhelming response as the outpour of interest in the Uplift Harris Guaranteed Income Pilot Program reaffirms the need to invest in communities experiencing high rates of deep poverty,” said Harris County Public Health Executive Director Barbie Robinson in a news release.

Harris County and Uplift Harris did not respond to emails seeking comment.