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Austin experimented with giving people $1,000 a month. They said they spent the no-strings-attached cash mostly on housing.

Austin experimented with giving people $1,000 a month. They said they spent the no-strings-attached cash mostly on housing.
A street filled with cars in Austin, Texas.
Austin.Evan Semones
  • A guaranteed-basic-income program in Austin gave people $1,000 a month for a year.

  • On average, the participants reported spending most of the no-strings-attached cash on housing.

  • After a year, fewer participants said they were unable to afford to eat a balanced meal.

People who received guaranteed basic income in one of Texas' largest cities reported reduced rates of housing insecurity. But some Texas lawmakers are not happy.

Austin was the first city in Texas to launch a taxpayer-funded guaranteed-income program when the Austin Guaranteed Income Pilot kicked off in May 2022. The program served 135 low-income families, each receiving $1,000 monthly. Funding for 85 families came from the City of Austin, while philanthropic donations funded the other 50.

The program was billed as a means to boost people out of poverty and help them afford housing. "We know that if we trust people to make the right decisions for themselves and their families, it leads to better outcomes," the city says on its website. "It leads to better jobs, increased savings, food security, housing security."

While the program ended in August 2023, a new report from the Urban Institute, a Washington, DC, think tank, suggests that the city's program did, in fact, help its participants pay for housing and food. On average, program participants said they spent more than half of the cash they received on housing.

After the yearlong program, surveys suggested participants were "substantially more housing secure" than when they enrolled, while other Texas residents with low incomes became "modestly less housing secure" over the same period, the report said.

The program also appeared to help reduce food insecurity among participants — the number of participants who reported being unable to afford to eat a balanced meal decreased by 17 percentage points after a year.

Taniquewa Brewster, a single mother who started receiving payments from the program in September 2022, told KXAN, a local NBC affiliate, that the money she received helped her pay for medical expenses and medicine following an eight-day hospital stay.

While Austin was the first city in Texas to test a guaranteed-income program, it's now not the only one. But not everyone in the state supports them.

Last week, State Sen. Paul Bettencourt sent a letter to the state's attorney general asking him to declare a new program in Houston as unconstitutional.

Harris County, which includes Houston, earlier this month launched a guaranteed-income program that gives low-income residents $500 a month.

The county's attorney told the Houston Chronicle that Bettencourt was "more focused on political games and weaponizing government institutions than making life better for the people of Harris County."

Many other cities around the United States are also experimenting with basic-income projects to address rising homelessness and support their most vulnerable residents. In Baltimore, the Baltimore Young Families Success Fund gives young parents $1,000 a month. The director of policy of the CASH Campaign of Maryland, Tonaeya Moore, previously told Business Insider that surveys suggested participants mostly spent their money on the same general necessities, such as housing and food.

And in Denver, a basic-income program that gives some people up to $1,000 a month was recently extended after participants reported increased housing security.

Correction: January 29, 2024 — An earlier version of this story incorrectly described some of the data from the surveys. On average, participants said they spent most of the money on housing. And the number of participants who reported being unable to afford to eat a balanced meal decreased by 17 percentage points, not 17%.

Read the original article on Business Insider