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DU helps analyze push for federal basic income

Even as millions of people lost money during the 2020 pandemic, wealth grew for those at the top, including Denver entrepreneur and philanthropist Mark Donovan.

“I decided that I needed to more actively give back,” Donovan says, “to both acknowledge the privilege I experience as a white man and the economic and structural benefits I receive.”

First, he gave $1,000 cash a month to 10 people. Touched by the instant effects, Donovan spent $500,000 to launch the Denver Basic Income Project.

Project leaders expect to raise $7.4 million to help 820 Denver residents who currently are unhoused. The project will provide $6,500 upfront for 260 people, followed by $500 a month for 11 months; $1,000 a month for 12 months for another 260 people; and $50 a month to 300 people for completing surveys.

Daniel Brisson, executive director of DU’s Center for Housing and Homelessness Research (CHHR), will help the program conduct a randomized control trial to analyze the effects. 

“People experiencing homelessness are in some of the most challenging situations in our country,” Brisson says. In 1992, a Colorado household of two got $280 a month in government help. In 2021, that household gets about $365 a month. While assistance increased by 30%, rent for a two-bedroom apartment rose by more than 200%.

As Brisson notes, the CHHR wants to determine “if some amount of cash, unrestricted cash, can provide an impetus—a point for change and thriving in people’s lives.”

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