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

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

The program Paxton claims is unconstitutional is called “Uplift Harris.” The Guaranteed Income Program was passed by Harris County Commissioners in 2023 on a 4-1 vote.

In the Guaranteed Income Trial, participating households receive $500 per month for 18 months. He received over 59,000 applications for the program, which launched on January 12, 2024, but only 1,924 of the applicants were able to participate.

Applicants were selected “at random” through a lottery, according to the county’s website.

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The Texas attorney general is suing Harris County over a program that randomly selects participants and receives $500 a month for 18 months. (Dylan Hollingsworth/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

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

The attorney general’s office says the state’s constitution provides that “counties, cities, towns, other political corporations, and local governments of the state may not provide public funds or anything of value to support individuals or provide them with public funds or anything of value.” ” is prohibited.

“Harris County’s programs that distribute public funds for free without conditions, controls on spending, or guarantees of public interest are prohibited,” Paxton’s office said in a press release.

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Ken Paxton

WASHINGTON, DC – APRIL 26: Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) of Texas and Eric Paxton of Missouri after the United States Supreme Court hears arguments in a Title 42 case on April 26, 2022 in Washington, DC. Attorney General Schmidt told reporters. Paxton and Schmidt, who is running for the Missouri Senate, are filing a lawsuit challenging the Biden administration’s repeal of the Trump Migrant Protection Protocols, also known as Remain in Mexico. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Paxton also noted that the state’s constitution provides “equal rights to all men, and no man, or men, shall be entitled exclusively to separate public emoluments.”

He added that distributing the funds violates the state constitution because the selection of recipients is arbitrary in nature.

“This plan is clearly unconstitutional,” Attorney General Paxton said. “Taxpayer money must be spent lawfully and used to promote the public good, rather than simply being redistributed without accountability or a reasonable expectation of general benefit. No. I am suing to stop Harris County officials from abusing public funds for political gain.”

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Harris County officials did not immediately respond to Fox News Digital’s request for comment.

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

The pilot program issued monthly checks of $1,000 to 85 families at risk of losing their homes. The state capital became the first major city in Texas to use tax dollars to fund a “guaranteed income” program after the Austin City Council initiated the measure in 2022. The city of Austin explains on its website that the Guaranteed Income Program “serves as a springboard for participants to move out of poverty and increase economic mobility and housing stability.”

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When Harris County announced the program in 2023, undocumented immigrants were excluded because the program is funded with federal COVID-19 relief funds.Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo reportedly wants an “alternative cash assistance program” to cover people who don’t qualify for Uplift Harris.

Fox News Digital’s Joshua Q. Nelson contributed to this report.

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