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THRIVE East of the River and Guaranteed Income: Final Results

In spring 2020, as Washington, DC shutdown in response to the growing COVID-19 pandemic, Bread for the City and three other partner nonprofits (BBAR, Martha’s Table, and the Far Southeast Family Strengthening Collaborative) leapt into action and created an innovative cash transfer program for families in Wards 8 who had experienced COVID-related job loss. Since then, THRIVE East of the River has provided $5,500 to nearly 600 households, alongside other assistance like financial counseling, groceries, referrals, and assistance enrolling in benefits. Now, as THRIVE has completed its pilot stage nearly two years later, our evaluation partner, The Urban Institute has released its final report on this groundbreaking project. 

THRIVE’s accomplishments join a symphony of successful guaranteed income pilots throughout the country– it’s been proven time after time that unconditional cash transfers help stabilize and mobilize those living with low incomes. But, moving from the pilot phase to an established guaranteed income program has proven to be a challenge for many pilots, as funding and navigation of benefits cliff issues have stalled many projects from continuing. THRIVE was an opportunity to change the narrative around guaranteed income programs; these programs are an equitable method of combating systemic injustices faced by marginalized people. 

Key takeaways from the Urban Institute report include:

  • A majority of participants reported spending most of their $5,500 on housing: 54% spent all, almost all, or a lot of their cash transfer to catch up on rent and mortgage payments.
  • The second largest share of participants targeted their funds towards food, with 42% spending all, almost all, or a lot of their THRIVE cash on food and groceries.
  • Other major uses of funds included transportation, debt reduction, and professional goals like investing in small businesses. 

THRIVE made an impact:

  • Before THRIVE, 34% of participants reported that they sometimes or often did not have enough to eat; because of THRIVE payments, this number dropped to 19% during the course of the project. 
  • THRIVE participants reported notably better mental health than other people with low-incomes, with only 30% of THRIVE participants experiencing depression compared to 39% of people with low-incomes nationally across the same time period.
  • The rate of THRIVE participants who reported being worried about their children’s emotional state went from 46% to 42% during this intervention.

As Deborah, a THRIVE participant interviewed by WAMU, describes, “I bought food, I bought toiletries and household items, I stocked up on sanitizers and masks, I was able to do some car repairs, I made a contribution to my church, I made some donations to my family. And I did gift some money to a few homeless people I saw along the way.” Urban’s report demonstrates that not only were participants more financially stable, but they also experienced less food insecurity and better mental health outcomes, which the operations team heard first hand from conversations with participants like Deborah. Participants were also able to invest in themselves, their families, and their communities, as Deborah also did.

As Mandi Koba, Bread for the City’s Economic Security Policy Analyst, says, “Bread for the City is committed to living our mission by uprooting racism and one of its causes, poverty, by working towards long-term systemic changes at the local and federal policy level. Now that THRIVE has wound down, we will continue to coordinate with our local Guaranteed Income Coalition and communities across the country to dismantle an inequitable safety net created using racist and false narratives around those living with low incomes and rebuild a just system that truly provides a mechanism for people moving into a more secure economic future.” 

Bread for the City is proud of our work with THRIVE and the impact that this project had. We look forward to collaborating on and creating future guaranteed income programs with partners across DC. Interested in learning more, getting involved, or making a donation? Contact Mandi Koba and Brittany Pope at economicsecurity@breadforthecity.org

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