Legality and funding

Middleton introduced the idea last week by describing it as universal basic income, but Duke University economics professor William Darity, who attended the online meeting, said that is a misnomer.

“It sounds to me like it’s a project that targets income supplements to those who are in the greatest need in the community. And it definitely does not have any implications for changing wealth,” he said.

Whatever it’s called, he thinks it could help.

“To the extent that the typical family doesn’t have the capacity to meet an unexpected $400 expense without going into debt, this is something that could be beneficial to families that are very much on the edge or on the brink,” Darity said.

About 39% of U.S. families would not be able to cover a $400 emergency expense, like a car repair bill, without going into debt, according to a 2019 report by the Federal Reserve Board.

In an interview with The News & Observer, Middleton said he agrees with Darity, He said he may call the proposal the Durham Economic Empowerment Program, similar in name to Stockton’s experiment.