How UpTogether Members Secured a Big Win in Austin

Bertha Hernandez arrived at Austin City Hall just in time. She spoke to the City Council right before they voted on next year’s budget.

“I was one of the recipients of the guaranteed income program, and I would say what a great blessing it was in my life. There are people who really need help, people like me who are in big trouble,” said Bertha. “I hope that these funds are granted again to continue helping families in need.

After learning that the city’s initial budget proposal did not continue Austin’s  guaranteed income program, Bertha joined UpTogether members, staff and community organizers to make the case for continuing grants in some form. 

“Not only is it helping the community to ensure that families are stable, but it just helps us to feel secure in a city that's prices are rising,” said UpTogether member Taniquewa Brewster at a recent budget hearing. She also shared the positive impacts of the pilot on KVUE.

 

Persuaded by numerous people who testified about the impact of direct cash investments, on Wednesday City Council passed a budget amendment for Family Stabilization Grants. The measure secures $1.3 million to provide cash grants of $1,000 a month to 85 families for one year.

“We would like to thank Councilmember Vanessa Fuentes for introducing this amendment, as well as members who voted yes,” said Ivanna Neri, Senior Director of Partnerships for UpTogether. “These grants are a vital tool to address poverty and systemic inequities in our city.”

One hundred and thirty-five families are participating in the Austin pilot, one of the first in the country to be launched with general operating funds. Participants received investments of $1,000 a month for one year. UpTogether is a partner in this pilot, which is ending this month.

The initial findings of the cash transfer pilot show promising results. Our research partner, the Urban Institute, reported that after six months, participants experienced substantial gains in housing stability, food security and mental health. Most members of the pilot used funds to pay for rent and other basic needs.

“Preliminary findings are showing positive results, and we expect results to only become more significant as the payments conclude,” Meng Qi, UpTogether Partnership Manager, Southwest, testified before City Council. “With the cost of living increasing sharply in our city, families experiencing financial hardship need direct assistance now.”

 

The guaranteed income pilot made such a huge impact on families, participants wanted to be sure other families had the same opportunity.

“I would like to advocate for other families too that might be facing similar situation like my family,” UpTogether member Lairam Lian told the City Council.. “And thank you so much for giving us the opportunity and receiving this funding from the City of Austin.”



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