Texas’ $500 Monthly Payments Suddenly Halted

The Texas Supreme Court agreed to temporarily stop a program that had promised to offer about two thousand residents of Houston payments of $500 per month for a year and a half.

The decision came after the state’s Attorney General Ken Paxton filed an emergency request with the court for a “temporary injunction” against the program. Paxton argues that the initiative was violating the state’s constitution.

The highest court in Texas granted Paxton’s request on Tuesday.

“The Supreme Court today granted an administrative stay in the State’s petition…concerning the #UpliftHarris guaranteed income program,” according to a post on X, formerly Twitter. “Without regard to the merits, the order prohibits the County from making payments pending further order.”

The Context:

The policy in question proposed to give nearly 2,000 people in Harris County—which encompasses a part of Houston—who were randomly chosen by local authorities a $500 check monthly for 18 months as part of an anti-poverty initiative. Qualifying participants earned 200 percent less than the national poverty line.

Notices went out last month to inform those who had qualified for the program. The policy, known as Uplift Harris, was financed through the federal policy of the American Rescue Plan. The goal of the program was to help fight “economic inequity and fight poverty,” according to local authorities.

What we know:

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sued Harris County calling the scheme unconstitutional.

“Harris County’s guaranteed income scheme plainly violates the Texas Constitution,” Paxton said in a statement.

Paxton had asked Texas’ Supreme Court to issue the temporary injunction to allow a lower court to adjudicate the issue.

Newsweek contacted AG Paxton’s office for comment on Tuesday.


Local authorities argued that the checks would help Harris County residents battle poverty. About 16 percent of residents in the area live in poverty, a situation that they say was exacerbated by the COVID-induced economic crisis.

“Reducing poverty and helping families who are struggling to meet basic needs should not be a political debate,” Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said in a statement in February. “Our community is experiencing poverty at rates higher than other communities in Texas and around the nation, and we as county leaders have a duty to do everything we can to address it. We’ll be looking into how we can fund this program long-term and hopefully help even more families in the future.”

What’s Next:

After the ruling, Rodney Ellis, a Harris County Commissioner, suggested local authorities will look to fight for the policy.

“We were racing to get at least one payment out the door, but unfortunately we were not able to process them before the Supreme Court order came down,” he wrote on X. “We will continue to fight to get these 1900 families the support they need and deserve.”

The Supreme Court said it was requesting a response from Harris County.

“The Court requests Harris County’s response to the State’s emergency motion for temporary relief by 4:30 p.m. April 29. The state’s petition for writ of mandamus and emergency motion for relief remain pending before the Court,” they said on X.

Inside the Texas Capitol. The state’s Supreme Court temporarily halted a program that would have given some residents in the state $500 a month.

Stock Photo/xjben via Getty Images