Durham organization providing $500 monthly checks to the formerly incarcerated: Here's how to apply

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- Syreeta Hill is the executive director of Step Up Durham, a nonprofit taking steps to help the formerly incarcerated get back on their feet.

Through a recently-approved joint partnership with the City of Durham, Step Up will manage and raise money for the Excel program.

Excel will provide 115 former offenders with guaranteed income.

$500 checks each month, starting in December through January 2023.

"I'm just excited I think this pandemic has shown us that we need to be more innovative around poverty, around systems that are rooted in inequity," said Hill.

A third of all 30-year-old men living in the U.S. who aren't working, are in prison, jail, or formerly incarcerated, according to the Brookings Institute.

Researchers say incarcerated individuals are more likely to have grown up in racially segregated, single-parent, poor neighborhoods where few men worked.

Half of former prisoners have no income the first few years after incarceration, those who do find work, half earn less than $10,000 a year according to researchers at the Brookings Institute.

Tim Pulliam: "Is $500 enough?"

Syreeta Hill: "It's interesting because for me I think $500 isn't a ton of money, $6,000 (a year), but for some individuals that I have spoken with who have been formally incarcerated it could be life-changing. These are folks who are mothers, fathers, they have family members that they are living with after they come out of incarceration. This provides dignity. It allows people to help support the household. It allows people to take care of their families. If they are in transitional housing and that's maybe $100 a week. It allows them to make those payments."

Candidates will be selected on a lottery system.

To qualify, you must be at least 18 years old, live in the City of Durham and have been recently incarcerated in the past five years.

There's no requirement to work.

The mayor Steve Schewel, and city councilmembers Pierce Freelon and Mark-Anthony Middleton helped bring the project to Durham.

Tim Pulliam: "What do you say to people who are concerned this is not going to create a work ethic for these individuals that will receive it?"

Mark-Anthony Middleton: "No string attached means no strings attached. This is not social engineering. We are not looking for a particular outcome. This is predicated on the simple proposition that more economically stable people make better choices."

Durham and Kinston are among the 60 cities nationwide participating in some form of guaranteed income program.

If you would like to apply or support fundraising for this program go to www.stepupdurham.org.

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