Austin Guaranteed Income Pilot: 12 Months In, What We Know So Far

The City of Austin’s recently-concluded guaranteed income program shows direct cash works to increase housing stability and reduce food insecurity. The Urban Institute analyzed the year-long pilot that gave 135 families $1,000 a month starting in September 2022. UpTogether was a partner in the effort. You can read the 12-month findings here. 

Here are the highlights based on surveys of participants:

  • More than half of the money given to participants was used for housing. 62% of them were able to keep up with their mortgage or rent, which is a 14% increase from the beginning of the pilot.
  • Participants faced less difficulty in getting enough food. Initially, 82% of them had experienced not having enough food for the last 30 days, but this decreased to 70% over the 12-month period.
  • The number of participants with jobs stayed the same, but 9% of them reduced their work hours. Half of those who reduced their hours used the time for job training, and the other half took on caregiving responsibilities.
  • Community gets stronger because of cash payments. Participants mentioned that the cash payments allowed them to spend more time with community organizations, both to receive help and to help others. They also leveraged and improved their social networks to achieve their goals.

Denpa, a participant who immigrated to the United States in 2016, used the cash payments to get home internet so he and his wife could take online classes. “I’m confident. I learned technical computer skills and English and my career is better. I have more hours now,” he told the researchers.

While mental health improved, there were challenges knowing the pilot would end. Participant mental health was at its highest improvement at the six-month mark, with 12% of participants reporting a relief from depression. At the end of the pilot, however, that figure dropped to 6%. Researchers noted that people were worried about the pilot ending and not being able to make ends meet, as the number of people who were "not able to stop worrying” increased from the start of the pilot by 6%. 

“The results show cash investments improve people’s lives. The hard part is sustaining the progress. We need governments to divert funding from programs that don’t work and directly invest those dollars into people,” said Ivanna Neri, UpTogether’s Senior Director of Partnerships. 

 

When the pilot ended, numerous participants testified before Austin’s City Council and asked for the City Council to continue cash payments to new families. As a result,in August of 2023 the City Council approved Family Stabilization Grants of $1,000 a month for at least 85 families for 2024-2025.

“Fortunately, Austin is committed to continuing grants to families and learning from direct investments,” said Neri.

 A final report showing the impact on families six months after the 2022-2023 year long pilot ended is expected to come out by Summer 2024.

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