Guaranteed Basic Income pilot program could be first step in curbing poverty in Durham, advocates say

Durham County News

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — Some help could be on the way to address the Bull City’s problem with poverty.

Durham has made the shortlist of cities selected to participate in a Guaranteed Basic Income pilot program.

Mayor Steve Schewel made the announcement at a work session last week that the Bull City could receive $500,000 worth of funding from Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey to fund the pilot program.

The city would receive the funding in March and Schewel has selected council members Mark-Anthony Middleton and Pierce Freelon to lead this effort.

“It’s really difficult to overstate how big of a deal this is for Durham,” said Councilman Mark Anthony Middleton.

Middleton said right now they don’t know how many individuals or families will get to participate in the Guaranteed Basic Income Program, but the participants are expected to get between $500 to $1,000 a month.

Middleton aid they have some ideas on how they’ll select these families.

“We’re looking at possibly a census tracker,” Middleton said. “We could look at single mothers and single parents who are raising children by themselves in economically impoverished areas.”

Middleton and Freelon are currently meeting with other cities that have already implemented a Guaranteed Basic Income program.

Middleton said he has received some letters from people in opposition of a program that hands out free money, but he argues that this is private money from the CEO of Twitter and that it will be given to people in need.

“We’re not talking about handing out yachts, or mansions, or luxury cars, we’re talking about food, shelter, and clean water,” Middleton said.

Ryan Fehrman is the executive director of Families Moving Forward, an organization that helps shelter 60 to 80 homeless families with children in the Bull City every year.

“We see many families that have large family sizes that have single-parent heads of households and so there’s not a second partner that can help bring in an income that will self sustain housing in the community,” Fehrman said.

He said the money that the Guaranteed Basic Income program will distribute will not be a lot, but he said it is a step in the right direction to curbing poverty in Durham.

“I don’t think universal basic income will be a silver bullet, but I think it will be very helpful, especially when combined with a job for helping people get out of homelessness and lift them out of poverty,” Fehrman said.

If Durham is approved for this program, the city will receive the funding in March.

The program is expected to last about a year.

After that Middleton said he hopes to encourage philanthropists to donate to this cause so they can keep the program going in the city.

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