Guaranteed income pilot program seeks to uplift Houston’s poor
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The idea few realize was introduced to the United States in the 1960s by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the guaranteed income, is coming to Houston, according to an announcement by Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and the Houston Fund for Social Justice and Economic Equity (Houston Equity Fund).

The one-year guaranteed income pilot program is designed to help impoverished residents.

“A guaranteed income is the provision of consistent income supplements without parameters or strings attached,” said Dr. Gena L. Jerkins, executive director of the Houston Equity Fund. “The target population includes community members who are most in need. The hope of a guaranteed income is to level the opportunity field for individuals receiving the benefit.”

The program is in partnership with Mayors for a Guaranteed Income, a coalition of more than 60 mayors engaged in the advancement of a federal guaranteed income, with direct recurring cash payments to the poor and middle class, according to a May 19 press release.

A total of 110 program participants will receive $375 a month, totaling $4,500 annually. According to the release, the program will disperse the money monthly to individuals in Houston’s most underserved neighborhoods with a “goal of progressing toward a more equitable and prosperous city.”

“This pilot can be game-changing for many Houstonians and a small step toward deepening equity in this city,” said Turner, in the release. “The program is a bridge to access. It creates the ability to afford quality transportation, child care, improved housing options, healthier food for families. A guaranteed income is an effective tool with proven results that can help combat economic insecurity.”

The pilot program will target residents who have experienced homelessness, been involved with the justice system, or have health concerns or other impediments that cause them to struggle with income inequity and employment instability, the release said.

Mayor Sylvester Turner

“This program has the potential to have tremendous impact for persons who need it most during a time when we are all dealing with rising costs of even the most basic needs such as food, housing and transportation. It is our hope that individuals who receive the additional income will use the funds to imagine possibilities for themselves and their families that they couldn’t before. This could mean being able to afford a laptop to work remotely, securing quality child or medical care or even being able to save for emergencies,” said Jerkins.

In order to qualify for the program, an applicant must be a resident of Houston, at least 18 years old and must have a household income at or below the federal poverty level. Applications close May 25 at 11:59 p.m. Those wanting to apply can do so by visiting the Houston Equity Fund website.

When Dr. King introduced this idea, he was met with harsh criticism for calling to move America towards socialism and undercutting the supposed “American work ethic.”

Jerkins, anticipating similar criticisms. “Economic equity for all persons should be viewed as a right, not a privilege. We hope the cash supplements provided to persons selected for the pilot will play a small role toward reaching that goal,” said Jerkins.