Houston’s Undocumented Immigrants Will Be Unable to Apply for Federal Poverty Benefits Under the New Plan


Hardline conservatives in Houston were getting ready to demonstrate, but Harris County Judge Lina Hildago surprised everyone by declaring that illegal immigrants living in the Houston region are not eligible to take part in a newly postponed guaranteed income program. This news appeased the group’s tastes.

The positive news that only residents will be eligible for the federal cash is welcomed even by Houstonians with modest incomes. However, Hildago intends to look at funding initiatives to assist unauthorized immigrants in the future.

Uplift Harris,” the program, was supposed to start this week, but it has been rescheduled. Foreigners will no longer be eligible for this county-led program, which sought to give $500 per month in financial help to impoverished families for eighteen months.

Judge Lina Hidalgo of Harris County stated, “Unfortunately, we won’t be able to [include undocumented immigrants] because this program is with federal funds,” at the commissioner’s court hearing on Tuesday. “We won’t be able to offer this program to the undocumented population,” Hildago stated.

Supporting the economy as a whole benefits everyone instead of purposefully excluding some. In my opinion, this appears to be the most effective approach to addressing poverty and inequality, therefore I would want to ensure that everyone is included,” Hidalgo stated on Tuesday.

Commissioner Tom Ramsey asked Harris County Public Health Department Director Barbie Robinson for clarity about the requirements for qualifying for the monthly payouts. “Will it include undocumented folks?” Ramsey asked. “At this time, the program doesn’t,” Robinson answered.

Hidalgo explains the debate around the eligibility of unauthorized people for the “Uplift Harris” program. At first, she claimed that everyone who qualified for the program could participate, according to County Attorney Christian Menefee.

She does, however, now affirm that members of the illegal population are not eligible to qualify for financial aid. To meet their demands, Hidalgo plans to launch a future initiative using private finance.

Houston's Undocumented Immigrants Will Be Unable to Apply for Federal Poverty Benefits Under the New Plan

Harris County commissioners have clarified program eligibility, but they have not yet indicated when the application portal will open. Nonetheless, they stated that they want to begin accepting applications on Friday, January 12.

As reported by the Houston Chronicle, “Uplift Harris” provides low-income households with $500 each month over 18 months after it was authorized in June 2023.

Minutes before the application was supposed to launch, Harris County officials informed the public of the postponement, stating that the commissioners needed more time to “iron out” certain aspects of eligibility.

Commissioners met in executive session for almost an hour and reviewed the problem with Robinson in open court. Robinson and the county’s public health department have monitored the initiative since June and will collaborate with a third-party vendor to assess how the increased money benefits participants’ lives.

“We have engaged a vendor to evaluate outcomes relative to the people who participate in “Uplift Harris County” to see what types of impact these dollars have on their lives, whether or not it helps them become more self-sufficient, whether it improves their mental health and well being, whether it changes their life trajectory in terms of looking at generational poverty,” Robinson said Tuesday.

The county secured federal American Rescue Plan Act funds in March 2021 to support the $20.5 million “Uplift Harris” initiative. The initiative seeks to provide $500 per month to 1,928 local families and people for necessities such as rent, utilities, healthcare, and transportation.

Families living 200 percent below the federal poverty level ($60,000 for a family of four or about $29,000 for a single individual) are eligible. The initiative focuses on key communities, such as Gulfton, Sunnyside, Galena Park, Acres Homes, East Six Jensen, Settegast, and others in Houston.

Low-income zip codes in Houston are being targeted for funding.

77050, 77093, 77051, 77060, 77028, 77033, 77026, 77081, 77547, and 77091 are the 10 particular zip codes. A random selection mechanism will be used to choose participants, assuring fairness and objectivity. The monies will be used at the discretion of the chosen persons. According to the Chronicle, this effort has been implemented effectively in several places, including Austin, Cook County (including Chicago), and Los Angeles County.

According to research just issued by the Kinder Institute in 2023, a thorough poll of 2,000 residents in Houston found eye-opening facts on the respondents’ financial soundness.

Specifically, over 40% of those polled acknowledged an inability to handle a $400 sudden financial hardship, such as an unexpected medical payment or a necessary automobile repair.

A closer look at the data based on ethnic demographics revealed even larger disparities, with more than 70% of Black respondents and more than 50% of Latino respondents reporting being unable to absorb such unexpected bills. These findings shed light on the urgent financial issues that a sizable majority of Houstonians, particularly those from minority groups, experience.

Selected participants will be contacted by email or phone in mid-February. Payments of $500 will be made via direct deposit or prepaid debit card. The first payment is scheduled for March. More information may be found here.

Before the executive session, Commissioner Ramsey sought an open court debate based on transparency. The original delay was created by Precinct 4 Commissioner Lesley Briones, who had a particular legal concern that fell within executive session standards and also demanded transparency.

Precinct 1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis stated that a news conference would be held shortly to provide additional information on the official application launch date.

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