How to Get Emergency Cash to Workers

Design Sprint for Social Change

What If Workers Had Emergency Cash?

To find out, we designed and tested the largest cash transfer experiment of its kind. In 2019, we gave up to $1,000 to gig workers experiencing unexpected emergency expenses.

Our goal: To gather evidence about how a cash benefit like this one could and would work best.

We weren't the only ones wondering then what would happen if workers had access to emergency cash. And we're not the only ones wondering now.

A vision for today and for the future

Today - when workers and organizations need it most - we want to share what we've learned with those who want to get cash to American workers devastated by COVID-19.

Whether you’re a policymaker, an elected official, donor, or organizer, we invite you to be part of a conversation about emergency cash and support for workers during this crisis and in the post-crisis world to come.


“Public policy solutions for low-earning workers rarely address the impact of short-term emergencies.”

Adrian Haro, Leader, The Workers Lab


Let's Talk About Emergency Cash

Join the conversation by registering to attend our livestream briefing, "Do's and Don'ts of Emergency Cash to Workers" on Thursday, May 21, 2020.


Today’s Workers Are Vulnerable in an Emergency

We chose to explore emergency cash delivery with our Design Sprint because the U.S. social safety net is insufficient.

Income Lags Behind Cost of Living

Wages have stagnated over the past 30 years. More than half (55 percent) of people live paycheck to paycheck.


Savings Rates are Too Low

Two-thirds of American workers would struggle to cover a $1,000 expense. Four in 10 adults would not have $400 for an unexpected bill.

Today’s Incomes Fluctuate

Families that experience income volatility - whether a gain or loss - report lower financial well-being and less savings than those with stable income. A 25% fluctuation in income over a five-month period is commonplace for many U.S. workers.


Timeline of Our Emergency Cash Pilot

Spring 2018
With financial and organizational leadership from The Rockefeller Foundation and, we began our Design Sprint for Social Change. We brought together thought leaders across the fields of financial inclusion, product innovation, and labor and employment policy to design and test an emergency cash delivery pilot. We focused on low-income gig workers to learn how access to emergency cash would impact their financial lives.

Fall 2018 - Spring 2019
Executed a pre-pilot test of an emergency cash delivery website with 29 users to refine the marketing and technology. We worked with Steady, a gig work app, to introduce The Workers Strength Fund to its New York City and San Francisco members. Read the pre-pilot findings.

Summer - Fall 2019
Launched a full-scale pilot of the emergency cash delivery website, called The Workers Strength Fund. In this experiment, we provided $1,000 cash grants to 350 lower-income gig workers.

Spring 2020
Find out what we learned. We'll be releasing detailed findings in a briefing on May 21, 2020. Register for the event to hear best practices for how to get emergency cash to workers quickly.

Our Partners in this Pilot

David_Weil_Ph.D._Lead_Policy_and_Research Advisor
Cash to Workers

Let's Talk About Emergency Cash

Join the conversation by registering to attend our livestream briefing, "Do's and Don'ts of Emergency Cash to Workers" on Thursday, May 21, 2020.