THRIVE: Providing Cash Relief to DC Residents Hit Hardest by the Pandemic

When the pandemic hit, the THRIVE East of the River (THRIVE) partnership in Washington, DC, began providing direct cash payments and grocery assistance to up to 500 houaseholds in Ward 8, where most residents are Black and one-third have incomes below the federal poverty level. The cash transfer program appears to provide the largest short-term private emergency cash relief payment offered in the United States.

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 and was created to address the disproportionate economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the organizations’ clients. The collaborating organizations were Bread for the City, the Far Southeast Family Strengthening Collaborative, 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.

Urban’s role is to document the emergency intervention’s effectiveness and provide data and evidence to inform ongoing program design and management. Insights can contribute to any discussion of how cash infusion might alleviate crisis, reduce income inequality, and advance equity. In collaboration with the Far Southeast Family Strengthening Collaborative, Urban has also stood up a team of community researchers, who live in Ward 8, to assist with data collection and analysis on the effort.

We will publish a summary report on THRIVE outcomes and implementation in mid-2022. THRIVE-related blog posts are listed below.

THRIVE: A Field Guide for Nonprofits Interested in Providing Cash Relief
Mary Bogle and Fay Walker, November 2021

Cash Transfer Programs Can Build Choice, Speed, and Equity
Fay Walker, Mary Bogle, September 10, 2021

How Cash Infusions Can Prevent Evictions for Families Most Affected by COVID-19
Peace Gwam and Peter A. Tatian, March 2021

Which DC Residents Haven’t Gotten Their Economic Impact Payments Yet?
Elaine Maag, March 2021

An Innovative Program Provides Cash Relief to DC Residents Hit Hardest by COVID-19
Mary Bogle, August 2020

Insights from a DC Cash Relief Program Can Inform Discussions about Federal Cash-Based Policies
Mary Bogle, December 2020

The research team has also produced the following products and events:

Using Basic Income to Meet the Needs of DC Communities

Funding Direct Cash Initiatives

Responding to the COVID-19 Crisis: Providing Direct Cash Assistance to DC Residents

Philanthropic Support for Direct Cash Assistance during the COVID-19 Crisis: What Have We Learned?