'One more check isn't enough': Durham Mayor Steve Schewel calls for guaranteed income to help economic recovery

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- Durham Mayor Steve Schewel is part of a cross-country team of mayors striving to help people through the COVID-19 pandemic with an idea that's gaining traction in economic circles: a guaranteed income.

The Mayors for a Guaranteed Income penned a letter to President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris asking the future leaders to pass stimulus checks until the economy recovers from the pandemic. Schewel is one of 33 mayors in the coalition proposing an income floor that they feel would "help communities and families thrive again."

"Mayors across the country agree," Schewel said in a tweet Friday. "One more check isn't enough. Recurring payments until the economy recovers will best help those who have been so deeply affected by this crisis."

On Thursday, Biden unveiled a $1.9 trillion coronavirus plan in which he proposed $1,400 checks for most Americans. But Schewel and others are calling for something broader.

The mayors want a comprehensive stimulus package that includes recurring direct cash payments to families to help them meet basic needs. The payment would be monthly and unconditional with no work requirements as work as a 'supplement to an existing social safety net' as well as work as a tool for racial and gender equality.

"This is not the time for timid solutions," the letter reads. "It's critical that we quickly pass a robust stimulus to help promote a sustained and racially equitable recovery and help families and businesses get back on their feet."

North Carolina's unemployment rate is at 6.2 percent, which is lower than the 6.7 percent national average reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In North Carolina, Fayetteville has the highest unemployment rate of any metro area at 8.4 percent, according to the N.C. Department of Commerce. The Durham-Chapel Hill metro area had a jobless rate of 5.2 percent for November.

Schewel is the only North Carolina Mayor included in the proposal. Mayors of cities as big as Los Angeles, Atlanta, Seattle, Houston and Philadelphia are also part of the group.

Last spring, Durham took a proactive approach to battling COVID-19 as outdoor gatherings were limited to 10 people at the time, less than the then-mandated limit of 25 for the state. On June 1, Durham moved to a Safer-At-Home order, which since has had some revisions.

In October, Durham city leaders approved a resolution to reduce the wealth gap between races with a program that included reparations.

Andrew Yang, a former presidential candidate, has long been a proponent of universal basic income and recently announced he's running for Mayor of New York City.
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