DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- Durham County is the latest to launch a guaranteed income program, as County leaders say the greatest need is housing and food assistance.
In the last two years, there has been a nearly 35 percent increase in families receiving SNAP benefits. The program is designed to provide a hand-up to the county's low-income residents.
"We're having people still struggling," Durham County Board of Commissioners chair member Brenda Howerton said.
She has heard the stories of struggle from families in her Durham Community.
"I just talked to my daughter yesterday and where she works, they talked about laying off over 200 people," Howerton said. "And we still have a lot of food insecurity in this community. "
But a new initiative is set to launch called DoCo Thrive, which will help families in need. Although, some families may qualify for government assistance. It's still not enough.
Earlier this week, the board of commissioners unanimously approved the new pilot program that will provide families with $850 a month for a year, a $750 stipend, and another $100 to complete a survey to keep track of the program.
Another 125 people who were not selected for the monthly stipend will still be able to participate in the monthly survey to compare participants with stipends to those who do not receive the stipend.
Howerton said the biggest benefit will be among single parents trying to care for their children.
"Children cannot thrive. If their parents are not thriving and they don't have a house to live in if they don't have food for their children, our children cannot thrive, and they cannot learn." Howerton said.
This will become the second Durham guaranteed income program in the county.
The city of Durham launched a similar program in March 2022 which provides a $600 monthly stipend to more than 120 people who were formerly incarcerated.
February was the last monthly installment for the first group of participants. But the city has earmarked $1 million in the city's budget to continue the program. Who will benefit and what the program looks like is not clear right now.
"There are single parents, raising children, there are folks that are in housing distress because of mounting rent, or mortgage payments. There are a lot of different populations, which is why we are ultimately hoping that this will be a guaranteed income a universal guaranteed income initiative for all individuals as opposed to specific demographics," said Middleton.
It's the success of the city's program that inspired the county.
"We are ultimately hoping that this will be a guaranteed income. A universal guaranteed income initiative for all individuals as opposed to specific demographics." Middleton said. "We have to do the very best we can for the people in this community. This is one of the things that we saw that we could do. "
The total cost for the pilot program is $1.69 million which will be paid through the American Rescue Plan Act. The county is committed to the initiative for the next two years, and applications will start later this year.