Program which pays formerly incarcerated people is so successful, NC city announces expansion

Tydricka Lewis works 12-hour shifts to make ends meet, but the extra cash from Durham’s Excel program helps ease the financial burden. In fact, it helps her meet her car note.

“It allowed me to get decent transportation for my children and myself,” said Lewis. “Helps me get back and forth to work. I’m in school and run everyday errands.”

The guaranteed income pilot program was launched last year. Syreeta Hill oversees the program and told reporters it is helping keep people out of the criminal justice system by supplying them with extra cash.

“Guaranteed income looked like 600 a month for a year for 109 formerly incarcerated individuals,” said Hill. “Giving people unrestricted money works. It helps people take care of their basic needs.”

City leaders said while the program has faced backlash, the perception was wrong.

“I’ve gotten all kinds of emails and texts of folks saying you’re giving money away to ex-cons,” said Mayor Pro Tem Mark-Anthony Middleton. “Surprise surprise folks paid bills and did things for their kids.”

He told reporters there’s a reason why the city has invested in the program moving forward by earmarking 1 million dollars for the next group of participants. This comes as as guaranteed income programs across the country continue to get national attention including Durham’s.

The second group of participants could be selected as early as spring of next year.

“During COVID-19 if we sent a check to people with jobs we call it stimulus because it stimulates the economy,” he said. “If we do it on the regular for everybody it’s called subsidized pathology? It’s a good economic practice. It betters the economy.”

Durham Mayor Pro Tempore Mark-Anthony Middleton said the next round of participants could be selected as early as Spring of 2024.

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