On October 10 under agenda item 20, our City Council voted 5 to 1 “to authorize City Manager and City Attorney to identify a funding source for $500,000 and create a process to select an organization to support families that are at or below 80% adjusted median income with metrics and standards as required by relevant law and the relevant funding source in an effort to assist those at risk of eviction and to prevent homelessness, and return to Council in 30 days.”

The motion was made by Rep. Alexsandra Annello and seconded by Rep. Art Fierro, with Rep. Brian Kennedy dissenting and Reps. Cassandra Hernandez and Henry Rivera absent.

You can follow the City Council discussion and vote here, starting at the 1:42 mark.

If finalized this coming November, the City of El Paso would provide 83 families with $500 cash each month for 12 consecutive months.

Qualifying families would need to earn $40,800 per year or less and would be free to spend the cash as they please without any requirements or oversight.

Diego Mendoza-Moyers of El Paso Matters just published a report on the vote.

He quotes Rep. Canales: “It’s not a handout, but an investment in the future of these residents. […] This program has the potential to serve as a really valuable test case for us here in El Paso for the effectiveness of basic income support as a tool for addressing poverty and inequality.”

Rep. Kennedy, who voted against the item, told Mendoza-Moyers that it would be better to “find a way where people can permanently work their way out of poverty.” Mayor Oscar Leeser was also skeptical.

We agree with Rep. Kennedy and the Mayor, and we have questions:

How would 83 families be selected when there are thousands of families that would qualify?

How would providing such a small number of families with one year of cash assistance alleviate local poverty?

Why disburse the funds as cash rather than subsidizing rent and/or utilities?

If the City is going to spend $500,000 of taxpayer money to address poverty, it would be best spent on a program to help needy El Pasoans find jobs in our community, although there are already local nonprofits that do just that, such as Workforce Solutions Borderplex.

At a minimum, the City could hire needy residents for temporary jobs or apprenticeships.

Our two cents.