GiveDirectly plans a cash transfer response to COVID-19 in US

post by warrenjordan · 2020-03-19T05:44:48.764Z · score: 5 (6 votes) · EA · GW · 3 comments

This is a link post for https://www.givedirectly.org/covid-19-response/

https://www.givedirectly.org/covid-19-response/

I wanted to share to everyone that GiveDirectly, one of GiveWell's top rated charities, is planning to respond to COVID-19 in the US.

We’re planning a (contactless) cash transfer response to COVID-19 in the U.S. We recognize that gov’t responses, while large in scale, can’t meet the full need — whether by excluding some of the most vulnerable (e.g., elderly, undocumented, etc.), not providing sufficient resources, or simply being delayed. To that end, we’re planning to launch a public cash transfer program in the U.S., leveraging our experience with cash in disasters and contactless operations.

As someone new to EA, it sounds like this goes against the principle of the dollar going further overseas. I assume that poorer countries are already (or will be) significantly impacted by the pandemic vs. developed countries.

I brought this up to them via e-mail and this was their response.

We recognize that the need is immense globally, and will only grow over the coming months. We believe cash relief can play an important role in helping those most vulnerable, both in the U.S. and elsewhere. Operationally, the complex challenges we face to do this well (e.g. connecting people to a payment grid without any interaction) are more immediately surmountable in the US. That said, we are absolutely pulling up plans that were already underway (pre-Covid) to pilot remote enrollment models in East Africa. This could look like a phone-based approach or partnering with telecom companies to fund digital wallets in high poverty areas without boots on the ground.

What are everyone's thoughts on this and does this influence your personal donation strategy?

3 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by Kit · 2020-03-19T08:14:21.881Z · score: 5 (3 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

The donation page and mailing list update loosely suggest that donations are project-specific by default. Likewise, GiveWell says:

GiveDirectly has told us that donations driven by GiveWell's recommendation are used for standard cash transfers (other than some grant funding from Good Ventures and cases where donors have specified a different use of the funds).

(See the donation page for what the alternatives to standard cash transfers are.)

If funding for different GiveDirectly projects are sufficiently separate, your donation would pretty much just increase the budgets of the programmes you wish to support, perhaps especially if you give via GiveWell. If I were considering giving to GiveDirectly, I would want to look into this a bit more.

comment by warrenjordan · 2020-03-19T19:41:10.816Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Thank you for the clarification.

If funding for different GiveDirectly projects are sufficiently separate, your donation would pretty much just increase the budgets of the programmes you wish to support, perhaps especially if you give via GiveWell.

Confused about this one as I have not donated directly to GiveDirectly - I thought that if I were to donate $100 for standard cash transfer, some % of that goes directly to recipients. They state 89% for specific African countries. I would hope there would be some comparable % for standard cash transfers to US recipients.

If I were considering giving to GiveDirectly, I would want to look into this a bit more.

What questions come to mind for you? Some that I think of...

  • What is the criteria for someone to receive this benefit? What does that vetting process look like?
  • What would coverage look like?
  • How do they ensure that the funds will actually benefit the recipients and where do they draw those margins?
comment by Kit · 2020-03-20T08:05:46.407Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

I would guess that the decision of which GiveDirectly programme to support† is dominated by the principle you noted, of

the dollar going further overseas.

Maybe GiveDirectly will, in this case, be able to serve people in the US who are in comparable need to people in extreme poverty. That seems unlikely to me, but it seems like the main thing to figure out. I think your 'criteria' question is most relevant to checking this.

† Of course, I think the most important decision tends to be deciding which problem you aim to help solve, which would precede the question of whether and which cash transfers to fund.