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Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sues Harris County over ‘unconstitutional’ program

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sued the Harris County government for a program that gives participants $500 per month for 18 months, using COVID-19 relief funds.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is suing Harris County for a program that gives nearly 2,000 residents $500 per month for 18 months, saying the program is “plainly unconstitutional.”

The program Paxton claims is unconstitutional is called Uplift Harris. The guaranteed income program was passed by Harris County Commissioners in 2023 with a 4-1 vote.

Under the guaranteed income pilot, participating households will receive $500 per month for 18 months. The program, which started on Jan. 12, 2024, received over 59,000 applications, though it was only available to 1,924 of those applicants.


The applicants were selected “randomly” through a lottery process, according to the county website.

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County officials will fund the program with the $20.5 million received through the 2021 American Rescue Plan Act, which was intended to be used for COVID-19 relief initiatives. But now, those who receive the funds will receive them with “no strings attached,” according to Paxton.

The attorney general’s office said the state’s constitution forbids “any county, city, town or other political corporation or subdivision of the State…to grant public money or thing of value in aid of, or to any individual.”

“Harris County’s program to give public money away with no conditions, no control over expenditure of that money, and no guarantee of public benefit is prohibited,” Paxton’s office said in a press release.

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Paxton also points out that the state’s constitution gives everyone “equal rights, and no man, or set of men, is entitled to exclusive separate public emoluments.”

Handing out the money, he added, violates the state’s constitution because selection of recipients is inherently arbitrary.

“This scheme is plainly unconstitutional,” said Attorney General Paxton. “Taxpayer money must be spent lawfully and used to advance the public interest, not merely redistributed with no accountability or reasonable expectation of a general benefit. I am suing to stop officials in Harris County from abusing public funds for political gain.”

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Harris County officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment from Fox News Digital. 

Austin, Texas recently launched a guaranteed income program to address housing insecurity in the city.

The program, which was launched as a pilot, issued $1,000 monthly checks to 85 households who were at risk of losing their homes. After the Austin City Council launched the measure in 2022, the state capital became the first major city in Texas to use tax dollars to fund “guaranteed income” programs. The city of Austin explained on its website that the guaranteed income programs “act as a springboard for participants to find a way out of poverty to greater economic mobility and housing stability.”

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When Harris County announced the program in 2023, it excluded undocumented immigrants because the program is federally funded with COVID-19 funds. Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo reportedly wants an “alternative cash assistance program” to cover those who are ineligible for Uplift Harris.

Joshua Q. Nelson of Fox News Digital contributed to this report.

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