Universal Basic Income In Durham? One Councilman Thinks It Could Help

Aug 25, 2020

Mark-Anthony Middleton, Durham City Councilman
Credit City of Durham, via Flickr / https://bit.ly/32jlgHc

A member of the Durham City Council is proposing a pilot program that would give a basic income to the city's poorest residents.

Councilman Mark-Anthony Middleton describes the idea as a 12 to 18-month experiment that would give 200 to 300 people up to $1,000 a month.

Middleton first brought up the proposal during a discussion among city council members about gun violence in Durham, and he says a basic income could help resolve root causes of ongoing problems like gun violence. He pointed to a similar program in Stockton, California that was recently extended.

“It wasn't a subsidized foray into debauchery,” Middleton said. “They actually spent the money on things they need. When folks don't have to worry about certain things, they're free to develop the skill sets, competencies and temperament to go out and get jobs.”

Middleton says he plans to propose the program for the city's next budget cycle, and to seek funding from local donors or large corporations like Twitter.

It's not clear how much support the program would have among the rest of the city council.

“Is it a panacea? Of course not,” Middleton said. “But if we can start to make a difference in several hundred people or families' lives in our city, since we all agree these issues are interrelated and interconnected, who knows what type of impact we can have?”

Universal basic income was a signature issue for former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang.