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City gave $1,000 a month to 135 families to spend however they choose

Select households in Austin, Texas, were given the guaranteed income for a year. The majority of the funds helped low-income families pay rent.
Person flips through a wad of cash.
Posted at 1:12 PM, Jan 30, 2024

The city of Austin, Texas, helped provide a guaranteed income of $1,000 a month to 135 households for a one-year period. According to a new report prepared by the Urban Institute, most of the money went toward housing. 

According to the report, nearly 60% of the money used in the UpTogether program was spent on housing, while 20% went to basic needs, 10% went to other bills, and the remainder was put into investments or given to help others. 

The program enrolled low-income residents, many of whom reportedly were in areas with rapidly increasing rents. Despite living in rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods, the report says that participants were more likely to be caught up on rent and less likely to be evicted or foreclosed upon. 

The Urban Institute's findings also showed that the group's unemployment rate remained unchanged at 4% during the 12-month period. 

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Families participating in the program were also less likely to go hungry. 

The pilot program started in September 2022 and ended last August. 

The Urban Institute sent a memo to Austin City Council that recommended implementing the program for residents needing emergency financial assistance to prevent eviction, especially for those on the housing voucher waitlist.

Of course keeping the program would require significant funding as over $1.6 million was spent on the one-year pilot. 

Of the 135 slots in the program, 85 were funded by the city, while the private sector funded 50.

Austin's program was similar to one implemented in Denver, where 850 participants were given up to $1,000 a month. Results of that program indicated those receiving the most assistance tended to be more likely to have permanent housing and a full-time job. 

The idea of universal basic income has been discussed for years. According to Stanford University, there are currently 83 jurisdictions with some form of guaranteed basic income. These projects are occurring in jurisdictions big and small. For instance, the small Ohio town of Yellow Springs has 90 participants in its program, which pays $300 a month for people who meet certain income thresholds. 

Meanwhile, the entire state of Alaska essentially has a guaranteed basic income for all of its residents. Last year, Alaska gave residents $3,284 from the state’s Permanent Fund Dividend. The fund is paid for by the state’s oil producers.