The Evaluation of THRIVE East of the River, a guaranteed-income pilot that provided emergency cash relief of $5,500 to almost 600 Washington, DC households during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, shows promising outcomes for participants. THRIVE cash gifts and operations were privately funded by foundations, corporations, and individual donors. By the end of the project, the partners had raised $4.43 million and distributed $3.19 million to families. THRIVE was among the largest privately funded unconditional cash-relief programs ever offered in America.
The research team analyzed the program’s outcomes and effectiveness. Participants reported substantially better mental health and lower rates of food insecurity than other people with low incomes, both nationally and in DC, after receiving the cash payments. Prior to receiving the payments, 34% of participants reported they sometimes or often did not have enough to eat; this value fell to only 19% after receiving the payments. Sixty percent of participants were using personal savings to meet household needs before receiving the payments, but only 50% reported doing so after receiving them. The largest share of participants (54%) reported spending “all or almost all” or “a lot” on rent or mortgage payments, and the second largest share of participants (42%) targeted their funds toward food.
The report underscores the importance of understanding the interaction between cash infusion and public benefits in order to offer cash transfer as a tool that households can use to transition smoothly from stability to mobility. It also highlights the equity and efficiency of cash as a means of resolving the disproportionately harsh problems marginalized people often experience.