Denver basic income pilot scores $5 million to extend program for another 6 months

Basic Income Project’s new funding includes $2 million expected from city; program helps more than 800

Denver basic income pilot scores $5 million to extend program for another 6 months
Denver basic income pilot scores $5 million to extend program for another 6 months

By Joe Rubino

See original post here.

The Denver Basic Income Project will extend the no-strings-attached payments it provides to roughly 840 people for six months after funders — including the city — committed another $5 million to the initiative.

That money will go to people who are currently or formerly homeless, with payments resuming next month after a pause at the end of a recent phase, according to an announcement organizers plan to make Tuesday. The city of Denver’s 2024 budget earmarked $2 million out of unspent federal pandemic aid dollars for the Basic Income Project, matching an earlier contribution.

That is on top of a combined $3 million provided by The Colorado Trust, a private foundation, and another charitable foundation that chose to stay anonymous, organizers say.

The new payments will go to the roughly 800 people enrolled in the program’s 12-month randomized trial, which ended Jan. 15, and to 39 others who took part in earlier iterations of the project. The Denver Basic Income Project is the largest initiative of its kind focused on people who have been homeless, according to founder and executive director Mark Donovan.

Enrollees receive the payments without conditions placed on how they spend the money. Initiative leaders are working with researchers from the Center for Housing and Homelessness Research at the University of Denver to study the impact of direct cash. Early results have been promising.

A midpoint report released in the fall found that after six months of payments, 35% of enrollees who responded to voluntary surveys were living in their own homes or apartments, compared to just 8% at intake.

A final study of the most recent year of the program is expected in June. But project organizers aren’t waiting. Donovan says those early signs of success are what excites him now that the organization has raised enough money to continue to support enrollees.

Payments lapsed for many but will resume on Feb. 15, he said.

“I’m really strongly convinced that this is a powerful element of the economy in the future,” Donovan said in an interview. “And that’s what we’re trying to show — that this is something that should be explored more broadly across the country, that it can really make society more just and thriving for all.”

Since its launch in 2021, the program has provided $6.5 million in payments to participants. For the trial phase that launched in late 2022, the city of Denver kicked in $2 million in federal COVID-19 pandemic relief money to support payments to 140 people.

The 802 participants in last year’s trial were broken into three categories: One group received $1,000 per month for 12 months; another received $6,500 up front, then $500 per month for 11 months; and a control group received $50 per month for 12 months.

Now the two groups that received larger payments will be combined into a single group whose enrollees will receive $1,000 per month for six months. The control group’s monthly payments will increase to $100 per month, according to program spokeswoman Abby Leeper Gibson.

Don Mares, the president and CEO of the Colorado Trust, said the Denver Basic Income Project had demonstrated how impactful direct cash can be in improving lives.

“Housing stability is an important predictor of overall health and well-being,” Mares said in a statement Tuesday, “and the Denver Basic Income Project is an innovative approach to addressing homelessness and, in turn, improving lives.”

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