Harris County will introduce a guaranteed income programme with a $500 monthly cap named as “Uplift Harris”

The gateway for qualified applicants to apply for Harris County’s guaranteed income programme, “Uplift Harris,” a trial programme designed to provide financial help to low-income families, will open in the coming weeks. Approving the programme in June, Harris County Commissioners funded it with $20.5 million from American Rescue Plan funds, making the largest county in the state the first in Texas to do so.

Uplift Harris: What is it?

“Uplift Harris” seeks to provide low-income households in the county with 18 months of monthly payments of $500.

Uplift Harris is a direct cash assistance programme that provides about 1,928 inhabitants with $500 per month for 18 months to households. The programme aims to assist families in meeting their financial needs for things like groceries, rent, housing and utilities, and health care, according to the county website. Los Angeles County and Cook County in Chicago are two other US locations that have started initiatives along these lines.

Who is qualified?

Under the trial programme, the poorest neighborhoods in the county—Forest Acres, Acres Homes, South Park, East Six Jensen, Sunnyside, Northgate, Greater Fifth Ward, Settegast, Gulfton, and Galena Park—will receive these payments.

Ten important zip codes—77050, 77093, 77051, 77060, 77028, 77033, 77026, 77081, 77547, and 77091—were designated as priority locations by Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo throughout the summer. Additionally, those that fall 200 percent below the federal poverty threshold will get benefits.

200 percent of the federal poverty level is equal to $29,160 for each individual, according to federal criteria. Additionally qualified is a family of four with a maximum income of $60,000. To apply, a person must be at least 18 years old. According to Census Bureau data from 2022, 16% of Harris County citizens are poor.

Applicants for the Uplift Harris programme must also reside in Harris County in the Accessing Coordinated Care and Empowering Self-Sufficiency programme.

How do you submit an application?

The Uplift Harris programme portal is available from January 8 until January 26, 2024, at 11:59 p.m. Interested parties can fill up this online form till January. Residents will be asked personal questions about their lives and experiences through the application. In order to receive updates on their applications, they must also provide their contact details. Along with submitting their date of birth and a government-issued ID, applicants must also upload supporting proof, such as a clear selfie of themselves. Each family may only apply once.

What time does the programme begin?

In mid-February, residents who apply should expect to hear whether they’ve been chosen. The chosen applicant’s phone number or email address will receive a notification. The first $500 payment is anticipated to begin in March or April 2024, and the payments will be made via direct deposit or prepaid reloadable debit card. The Harris County Public Health Department will take over programme management in June, according to county officials. The money will be distributed by GiveDirectly and AidKit. Additionally, a third-party administrator will assess how much the lives of participants are improving.

What is the purpose of the money?

The money can be used by programme participants for anything that best suits their needs, including basics for the home. A few prohibited uses of the funds by participants include financing unlawful or criminal activity, endorsing persons or organisations associated with terrorism, or engaging in any activity that jeopardises the safety and security of other community members at danger of programme termination. Notably, according to the IRS, this monthly payment is tax-free and qualifies as a charitable donation.

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