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Applications Open for Harris County’s “Uplift Harris” Guaranteed Income Program

Harris County residents can now apply for the “Uplift Harris” guaranteed income pilot program, which aims to provide financial assistance to low-income households. Originally scheduled to start taking applications on Monday, the program launch was delayed to allow Harris County commissioners more time for discussion.

Under the Uplift Harris initiative, nearly 2,000 eligible low-income households will receive $500 per month in guaranteed cash payments for a duration of 18 months. To qualify, applicants must live below 200% of the federal poverty line, approximately $60,000 for a household of four, and be at least 18 years old.

Additionally, recipients must reside in one of the 10 highest-poverty zip codes in Harris County, including 77026, 77028, 77033, 77050, 77051, 77060, 77081, 77091, 77093, and 77547. Alternatively, participation in the ACCESS Harris County program, serving vulnerable populations with various needs, can also qualify individuals for Uplift Harris.

County health officials reported that 30,000 people expressed interest in the program through the county’s website. Concerns were raised about the website’s readiness to handle the demand, with Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo stating, “If it’s not, people are going to be getting calls from me personally.”

Applicants have until 11:59 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 2, to apply. The selection process will involve a lottery, with 1,928 families randomly chosen to start receiving funds in April. Notably, the program operates on a lottery basis, not a first-come, first-served approach.

The Uplift Harris program, funded by a $20.5 million grant from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), received approval from the Harris County Commissioners Court in June. The grant aims to provide financial relief to struggling families for essential needs such as rent, groceries, transportation, housing, utilities, healthcare, and more.

While economists express concerns about the uncertainty of pilot program results, Harris County leaders are optimistic about addressing economic inequity. However, questions linger about the potential impact on recipients’ motivation to seek employment once the program concludes after 18 months.

As the program unfolds, Harris County leaders remain committed to addressing the needs of their residents, acknowledging the potential challenges and exploring options for future programs. The initiative represents a unique effort to alleviate economic disparities in Harris County, with ongoing discussions about its long-term implications and potential expansion.