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New Report: Cash Programs in Colorado

// November 30, 2023

Cash in Colorado: New Report Sheds Light on Cash Programs in the State

*Haga clic aquí para leer el artículo en español*

From New Haven, CT to Sonoma County, CA, guaranteed income and direct cash programs have spread like wildfire across the country in the last five years. Colorado is no stranger to this trend. You may know about the Denver Basic Income Project or the just-launched Elevate Boulder program, the City of Boulder’s guaranteed income pilot. What you may not know is that nearly 30 cash programs in Colorado support individuals and families in meeting their basic needs and promoting economic mobility, and as many as 32 existed. With our adamant support of cash assistance as a key financial tool toward economic freedom, The Women’s Foundation of Colorado was eager to learn more about the landscape of flexible and direct cash assistance in the state. 

Cash in Colorado: A Landscape Analysis of Colorado Direct Cash Transfers

Through our WINcome grantmaking approach, WFCO recently partnered with Point b(e) Strategies to establish an analysis of the flexible cash (distributed via gift cards or payments to third parties) and direct cash landscape in Colorado. This effort, which began in the summer of 2023, analyzed program evaluations, organization websites, 1:1 conversations, Colorado Direct Cash Transfer Community of Practice (CCOP) meetings, among other materials. The result is this new report, Cash in Colorado: A Landscape Analysis of Colorado Direct Cash Transfers.

What did we find through the analysis of cash programs in Colorado?

As of October 2023, there had been 32 flexible or direct cash programs operating across the state with 29 currently active programs. 

  • The Thriving Providers Project and the Benefit Recovery Fund, operated by Impact Charitable, are ongoing statewide initiatives. 
  • Denver and Adams counties have the most flexible and direct cash programs in the state at seven each. 
  • Programs focus on serving various, specific populations that have been severely and disproportionately impacted by systemic inequities including families, women, individuals who are unhoused, Black, Indigenous, Latine, people of color, and individuals with low-incomes. 
  • When it comes to approaches to cash distribution, the most common approach is unrestricted cash through stipends followed by personalized, case-by-case cash distribution.

The Analysis of Cash Programs in Colorado Confirmed What We Know To Be True

Several organizations in this analysis shared evaluations or research of their cash programs. These reports further confirm what we know:

  • The COVID19 pandemic impacted communities already pushed to the margins immensely, such as individuals returning to their communities after release from prison or jail,  undocumented workers, and Black and Latine immigrant and refugee families. Cash payments supported participants through meeting their basic needs, such as food, medication, bills, and rental assistance, and helped those returning from incarceration with obtaining employment. 
  • Housing instability, eviction, and being unhoused continue to upend lives. Black and Latina women experience eviction at higher rates than men and white renters. The Denver Basic Income Project’s Interim Report suggests guaranteed income improved participants’ housing stability.
  • Mutual aid after the Club Q shooting tragedy supported survivors with meeting their basic needs, gathering together, and replacing lost belongings. The Queers for Q fund was responsive to the needs of the community at a time when funds were not accessible to survivors.
  • Families who are employed are still not making enough to cover all their basic needs, and when they participate in a cash program, most of the cash is utilized to do just that. 

Read The Full Analysis

In just the last two years, the community of stakeholders moving the direct cash needle in our state has grown exponentially. We work together to expand cash as one of the most powerful ways to create financial freedom. Colorado is a leader in implementing cash programs for some of our most underinvested-in community members, but Colorado is not alone in the country. Read the full landscape analysis to learn more about the growing movement and contact Crystal Ayala-Goldstein to join!




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