Harris County officials were ordered by the Supreme Court of Texas on June 14 to prohibit payments for Uplift Harris, the county's first guaranteed income program.

Breaking it down

With the court's order, more than 1,900 qualified families living below 200% of the poverty line will not be given $500 per month for 18 consecutive months as part of the program, pending the outcome of the state's lawsuit against Harris County challenging the program. According to the Uplift Harris website, no payments have been made since the original distribution date in late April.

How we got here

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed the original lawsuit on April 9 seeking a temporary restraining order against Harris County officials administering the program, citing it as unconstitutional in a 16-page lawsuit. While a state district judge ruled against Paxton's lawsuit on April 18, Paxton filed an emergency motion with the Supreme Court of Texas on April 23. Hours after Paxton's office released a statement, the Supreme Court of Texas issued its administrative stay on the same day.

Paxton said in a June 14 news release the guaranteed income program is a scheme.

“SCOTX has stepped in and put a stop to this abuse of power and unlawful use of taxpayer money while the case continues," Paxton said.

On the other hand

The state's appeal of the denial of a temporary injunction remains pending in the court of appeals, which will proceed "expeditiously to a decision," according to the court document. However, toward the end of the 12-page court opinion, it states how "it remains possible [Harris] County will ultimately succeed on the merits."

"Whether Harris County's proposal would actually violate the Texas Constitution remains an open question at this early stage of the litigation," the document states.

Harris County Attorney Christian Menefee said in a news release he is extremely disappointed in the Texas court's decision and will continue to litigate against efforts to block Uplift Harris.

“Uplift Harris is a poverty alleviation program modeled on other guaranteed income programs across the country. Local governments exist in part to help the less fortunate among us, and the Supreme Court’s ruling effectively ends a program that has proven to be highly successful at allowing lower-income folks to lift themselves out of poverty," Menefee said.