Texas Supreme Court Stops Poverty Relief Program Following Paxton’s Emergency Petition

(HorizonPost.com) – Less than a week after a Texas district judge dismissed Attorney General Ken Paxton’s lawsuit seeking to block Harris County from implementing its pilot program to provide guaranteed income to low-income residents, the Texas Supreme Court ordered the county to put the program on hold.

Attorney General Paxton sued the county on April 9, arguing that its planned “Uplift Harris” program to provide $500 a month for qualifying low-income residents for 18 months violated the Texas Constitution’s provision on disbursement of public funds.

A state district judge rejected Paxton’s lawsuit on April 18 saying that the funding for the temporary program was provided through the federal government’s American Rescue Plan, the pandemic-era relief spending signed by President Biden in early 2021.

Harris County Attorney Christian Menefee said last Tuesday that he had expected the Attorney General to appeal to the Republican-controlled state Supreme Court and predicted that the county would not “get a fair shake.”

Menefee noted that similar programs offered in Austin and San Antonio were not challenged by the Attorney General and suggested that Paxton was “selectively enforcing” that state constitution in cases that would make bigger headlines. He also claimed that Paxton’s lawsuit against the Democrat-controlled county was politically motivated.

The short-term guaranteed income program was scheduled to start last Wednesday but with the state Supreme Court’s order, the program will remain on hold pending the outcome of Paxton’s suit.

The county plans to use the $20.5 million it received from the American Rescue Plan to fund the 18-month program to provide roughly 1,900 qualifying residents monthly checks.

Those eligible for the “Uplift Harris” program must reside in high-poverty rate areas of the county and have an income below 200 percent of the federal poverty line.

When announcing his appeal of the lower court’s decision, Paxton said that officials in Harris County should not be permitted to continue abusing their power and taxpayer money “to score political points.”

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