Texas Attorney General Files Lawsuit Against Harris County Over Cash Payment Program

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has taken legal action against Harris County over its “guaranteed income” initiative.

This program, initiated by Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo in 2023, involves randomly selecting county residents to receive $500 cash payments each month for a duration of 18 months. Notably, these payments come with no strings attached.

Funding for this program was allocated from the 2021 American Rescue Plan Act, with Harris County receiving $20.5 million for its implementation. However, Paxton’s office argues that this initiative violates the Texas Constitution, which prohibits counties from providing public funds directly to individual citizens.

This legal dispute raises questions about the role of local governments in implementing social welfare programs and the boundaries set by state laws.

It also underscores broader debates about the effectiveness of guaranteed income programs in addressing economic inequality and supporting low-income individuals and families.

Interestingly, the lawsuit comes in the wake of a similar initiative undertaken by the City of Austin. In 2022-2023, Austin launched a pilot program that provided $1,000 monthly payments to low-income city residents without imposing any spending restrictions. This initiative, funded with $1.1 million, aimed to assist 135 households in the city.

Texas Attorney General Files Lawsuit Against Harris County Over Cash Payment Program

The contrasting approaches taken by Harris County and the City of Austin highlight the diversity of strategies employed by local governments to address poverty and economic hardship within their communities.

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As this legal battle unfolds, it raises important questions about the balance between local autonomy and state oversight in matters of social welfare policy.

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