In 1898, life insurance was unattainable for most Black folks in the U.S. John H. Merrick transformed that reality, building the multimillion dollar North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company in Durham’s historic Hayti community. This year marks the 100th anniversary of Merrick’s death in 1919.
While a three-week reprieve to the 35-day government shutdown is easing some of the pain, the month-long spat between President Trump and Democrats in Congress threatened the livelihoods of people receiving government assistance all over the country. Local economies are still feeling the ripple effects, and many fear the new negotiations could lead to another damaging impasse. In central Appalachia, where one in four residents live below the federal poverty line, the shutdown adds urgency to a long-standing debate about what a safety net in rural America would look like, and whether there are ways to construct programs that would be more immune to the politics of the moment. One solution increasingly becoming a part of the mainstream political discourse: Universal Basic Income. UBI—a federally-provided, no-strings-attached monthly payment to all U.S. adults, similar to Social Security—has been proposed as a potential solution to rampant poverty since Richard Nixon’s presidency.