Harris County is gearing up to roll out its groundbreaking guaranteed income initiative, “Uplift Harris,” designed to offer financial support to low-income families. Set to open its application portal in the coming weeks, this pilot program, approved by Harris County Commissioners in June, is made possible through $20.5 million in American Rescue Plan Funds, positioning the state’s largest county as the trailblazer in Texas for such initiatives.
What is Uplift Harris?
Uplift Harris stands as a direct cash assistance program committed to providing $500 per month for 18 months to approximately 1,928 eligible residents. The program aims to alleviate financial strains related to essential needs such as rent, groceries, transportation, housing, utilities, and healthcare. Comparable programs have been implemented in locations like Cook County in Chicago and Los Angeles County.
The pilot program is strategically targeting the most economically vulnerable areas in the county, including Forest Acres, Acres Homes, South Park, East Six Jensen, Sunnyside, Northgate, Greater Fifth Ward, Settegast, Gulfton, and Galena Park. Identified as priority zones by Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, the program will extend assistance to households residing 200 percent below the federal poverty line.
According to federal poverty guidelines, this threshold translates to $29,160 per individual, with eligibility extending to a family of four earning a maximum income of $60,000. Applicants must be 18 or older, and the program welcomes submissions from residents in the Accessing Coordinated Care and Empowering Self-Sufficiency Harris County.
How to Apply
The Uplift Harris program portal is scheduled to open on January 8 and close on January 26, 2024, at 11:59 PM. Interested applicants can submit an online interest form until January. The application process requires residents to provide personal information, including life experiences, and submit contact details for application updates. A government-issued ID, date of birth, and additional documentation, such as a clear selfie, are mandatory. Only one person per household can apply.
Following the application period, selected applicants can expect notifications in mid-February. Payments of $500 will commence via direct deposit or prepaid reloadable debit cards, with the first installment anticipated in March or April 2024. The Harris County Public Health Department will oversee program management, with GiveDirectly and AidKit facilitating fund distribution. A third-party administrator will evaluate participants’ progress.
Uplift Harris participants enjoy flexibility in using the funds for their specific needs, including basic household necessities. However, certain restrictions prohibit the funds from being used for criminal or illegal activities, supporting terrorism-related entities, or jeopardizing community safety and security. Notably, the monthly payments are tax-exempt and qualify as charitable gifts under IRS regulations.