Durham city officials announce plans for possible guaranteed basic income program

Using grant funding provided by Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, Durham may soon be able to provide program participants with between $500 and $1,000 per month


During a work session earlier this month, Mayor Steve Schewel of Durham, North Carolina, announced that the city is one of 30 across the nation being considered for a Guaranteed Basic Income pilot program. If selected, the city could receive $500,000 in funding provided by Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey to implement the pilot.

Homelessness is a major problem in cities across the United States. Mayor Schewel and other city officials are hoping the pilot program can in part help with Durham’s. Program participants could receive between $500 to $1,000 per month from the city.

Mayor Schewel is part of a group called Mayors for a Guaranteed Income, a network of mayors advocating for universal basic income for US citizens. Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., too proposed guaranteed income as a solution to poverty in the nation. Taking inspiration from MLK, Mayor Michael D. Tubbs of Stockton, CA, alongside  the Economic Security Project, founded the Mayors for Guaranteed income in June 2020, which now has 35 participating mayors.

Durham Mayor Steve Schewel is part of a group called Mayors for a Guaranteed Income, a network of mayors advocating for universal basic income for US citizens.
Durham Mayor Steve Schewel is part of a group called Mayors for a Guaranteed Income, a network of mayors advocating for universal basic income for US citizens.

Dorsey donated a total of $15 million, so each city could potentially receive $500,000 to implement their respective programs.

Mayor Schewel has selected city council members Pierce Freelon and Mark-Anthony Middleton to spearhead the citys efforts for the pilot. There is no blueprint for it as of yet, but the pair will be working with researchers to figure out logistics and best practices for everything from participant selection to cash award amounts and disbursement. They have until March to develop a plan for the pilot to present, which is when funding is expected to be dispersed.

In an interview with WRAL, both councilmen spoke on their hope for the pilot.

“It’s something that will not only speak to and address economic issues, but can also be part of a comprehensive multifaceted strategy to address crime,” said Councilman Middleton.

Councilman Freelon says the ultimate goal of the pilot is to provide proof that such a program could work on a national scale. “We’re trying to set a precedent,” said Councilman Freelon. “Really, the state and federal governments, they’re the ones with the budget to make this happen in a big way. What we’re trying to do in Durham is provide proof of concept."

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