MDRC in the News

How $24M in Cash Grants Provided a Lifeline for Returning Citizens During Pandemic

Commentary by Sam Schaeffer and Ivonne Garcia
The Crime Report


Navigating a return from prison or jail is hard even at the best of times. But during a pandemic it can be daunting.Scott, who was released from a California prison this year after serving six and a half years of a 10-year sentence, found a temporary job that required him to drive through hazardous winter conditions from his transitional housing residence in the San Bernardino Mountains.To keep the job, he needed funds to pay for auto insurance and emergency car repairs. But, like most returning citizens, Scott (whose full name is withheld to protect his privacy) couldn’t count on getting federal emergency relief funds allocated during the pandemic, which required recent work histories or tax returns to qualify.It looked unlikely that he could continue to work―until he found the Returning Citizen Stimulus (RCS) program, a first-of-its-kind cash assistance program exclusively for returning citizens…..

…..The program, implemented in 28 cities, paid out more than $24 million in grants, disbursed in milestone-based payments, averaging a total of $2,256 apiece, according to a new study by MDRC, a nonprofit, nonpartisan social policy research organization. According to MDRC, formerly known as the Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation, participants reported that the program helped them feel more financially stable in the difficult period following incarceration…..

…..The MDRC report shows that cash assistance combined with existing reentry services has strong potential to improve economic mobility and recidivism outcomes—even after the pandemic has subsided. Together, they provide immediate financial support to people returning from incarceration and create long-term engagements between returning citizens and reentry service providers…..

Full Article