Empowering Houston: A Glimpse into the Struggles and Triumphs of Guaranteed Income Programs

Jo-Carolyn Goode | 5/29/2024, 3:05 p.m.
In a profound effort to spotlight the human side of economic hardship and the transformative potential of guaranteed income programs, …
Commissioner Rodney Ellis

In a profound effort to spotlight the human side of economic hardship and the transformative potential of guaranteed income programs, Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis and County Attorney Christian Menefee are set to host an impactful screening of the documentary film *It’s Basic*. The event will take place on Thursday, May 30, at 4:30 p.m. at St. Johns Downtown Church, located at 2019 Crawford St., Houston.

The film, directed by acclaimed filmmaker Marc Levin and executive produced by former Stockton, California Mayor Michael Tubbs, delves into the poignant realities of living on the edge of financial stability. It showcases the stories of individuals from across the nation—Saint Paul, Minnesota; Cambridge, Massachusetts; Newark, New Jersey; Gainesville, Florida; and Los Angeles—who have experienced the profound impact of receiving a guaranteed income.

photo  County Attorney Christian D. Menefee


A Timely Event Amidst Legal Battles

This screening comes at a critical juncture, following the Texas Supreme Court's decision to temporarily block Harris County’s innovative guaranteed income program, Uplift Harris. Just moments before the first $500 checks were to be distributed to 1,900 low-income families, the program was halted by a lawsuit from the state Attorney General’s Office. 

“Our attorney general took cruel actions to block our program minutes before assistance went out,” Commissioner Ellis stated. “We’re amid an ongoing legal fight defining this state's political divides. I’m joined today by champions in the nationwide fight for guaranteed income programs.”

Championing Economic Justice

The event will feature a panel of prominent advocates, including Michael Tubbs, who pioneered the first-of-its-kind guaranteed income pilot in Stockton; County Attorney Christian Menefee, leading the legal battle against the state’s lawsuit; and Taniquewa Brewster, a participant in Austin’s Guaranteed Income Program. Their insights will provide a comprehensive look at the power of cash and the dignity it restores to recipients.

“At the local level, we refuse to be bystanders as soaring income inequality has led to 750,000 members of our community enduring a relentless cycle of poverty,” said Commissioner Ellis. “Guaranteed income programs have the power and potential to create a groundswell across this country that can help turn the tide on poverty and economic justice.”

The Impact on Houston

The need for initiatives like Uplift Harris is underscored by recent data from Rice University, revealing that nearly half of Houstonians are unable to cover an emergency expense. The recent storm that left 900,000 homes without power has only exacerbated this vulnerability. 

“That’s why we created Uplift Harris, a program that provides an income floor for our most economically insecure residents,” Commissioner Ellis emphasized. “We stand by Uplift Harris and will keep fighting for the resources Harris County families need and deserve.”

A Call to Action

As Houston grapples with the aftermath of the storm and ongoing economic challenges, this documentary screening and the ensuing discussions aim to inspire a collective movement towards greater economic justice and equity. The event will also include a news conference and a fireside chat, fostering a rich dialogue on the future of guaranteed income programs in Harris County and beyond.

Join Commissioner Ellis, County Attorney Menefee, Michael Tubbs, and Taniquewa Brewster for an enlightening evening that promises to reshape the conversation on poverty and financial dignity in America.

Event Details:

What: Screening of *It’s Basic* Documentary

When: Thursday, May 30, 4:30 p.m.

Where: St. Johns Downtown Church, 2019 Crawford St., Houston, TX 77002

For more information, visit the https://www.hcp1.net/CommissionerEllis or https://www.harriscountytx.gov/