Background

THRIVE provided emergency relief to more than 500 households east of the Anacostia River in the District of Columbia between July 2020 and June 2021. The project grew out of a partnership of four community-based organizations (CBOs) and was created to address the disproportionate economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the organizations’ clients. The collaborating CBOs were Bread for the City, the Far Southeast Family Strengthening Collaborative (FSFSC), Martha’s Table, and the 11th Street Bridge Park (a project of the Ward 8 nonprofit Building Bridges Across the River).

The partnership sought to

  • alleviate crisis,
  • stabilize families, and
  • foster mobility during the pandemic and in recovery.

The partnership’s centerpiece was a cash transfer of $5,500 to enrolled households. The payments were unconditional, meaning no strings were attached, and were delivered in one lump sum or monthly payments of approximately $1,100 each. Enrolled households also received weekly groceries and assistance securing other resources, such as unemployment insurance, financial literacy training, mental health support, and, upon request, workforce training.

The partners first met in 2019, before the pandemic began, to discuss launching a cash pilot. Drawing on lessons learned from a cash relief effort that Martha’s Table fielded for their clients at the onset of the pandemic, the partners reconvened in early 2020 to conceptualize and launch THRIVE.

The first payments began in July 2020, and staff recruited participants until the funding was exhausted. The project was privately funded by foundations, corporations, and individual donors. As of late April 2021, the partners had raised $4 million, with more than 15 large gifts from corporate, family, or private foundations and more than 500 smaller contributions from individual donors. The DC Office of the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC DC) and the Urban Institute served as supporting partners.

In late June 2021, THRIVE reached its goal to provide emergency cash relief to 500 households. Since then, the four community-based partners have continued to collaborate around providing cash transfers to their participants as a means of promoting economic mobility.

LISC DC provided technical assistance and fundraising support. Urban’s role was to document the effectiveness of the emergency intervention and provide data and evidence to inform ongoing program design and management. The Urban Institute will publish a summary report on outcomes and implementation.