COVID-19 Recovery and Resilience Initiative Request for Proposals


Our COVID-19 Recovery and Resilience Request for Proposals (RFP) aims to spur randomized evaluations of strategies to alleviate the social and economic challenges precipitated by the COVID-19 pandemic. These strategies and innovations may be related to:

  • Supporting workers who have lost their jobs access benefits and regain employment

  • Improving employment opportunities for individuals returning home from incarceration

  • Developing effective mechanisms to support students who have fallen behind during a long period of educational disruption

  • Improving health care delivery systems for individuals who are unsheltered during the pandemic

  • Increasing take-up of preventative health behaviors

  • Evaluating the impact of decarceral policies adopted amidst the pandemic to avoid overcrowding

  • Redressing racial inequities in outcomes for youth and young adults that may have been exacerbated by the pandemic’s disproportionate impact on communities of color

This list is not exhaustive: any proposal that explores potential strategies that support the recovery of low-income communities in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and contributes to J-PAL’s mission of reducing poverty by ensuring that policy is informed by rigorous evidence (see “Connection to J-PAL’s Mission” at the bottom of this page) is welcome. We are accepting applications for full research projects, pilot studies, and travel/proposal development grants.

If you have questions about the scope of the RFP, please contact Initiative Manager Vincent Quan ([email protected]).

Types of Proposals:

  • Full Research Projects: Full research projects are typically awarded between $150,000 and $250,000 with a maximum award size of $400,000.  Researchers must propose a clear and well-developed research question including detailed randomization design and power calculations according to relevant minimum detectable effect sizes. 

  • Pilot Studies: Pilot studies are eligible for up to $50,000 in funding. However, if researchers apply to receive short-term research management (STReaM), pilot studies are eligible for funding of up to $75,000. Researchers should seek to answer a particular research question; however, the design and implementation require further testing and piloting. Random assignment does not necessarily need to occur during a pilot study. Proposals should explain how the pilot will lead to a randomized evaluation in the future.

  • Travel/Proposal Development Grants: Travel/proposal development grants are eligible for funding up to $5,000. These grants are to be used for early stage activities with the goal of launching a randomized evaluation in North America.  Application materials can be found here: Travel/Proposal Development Grant Application.

In this RFP cycle, we will be offering the opportunity to receive short-term research management (STReaM). This is a program that provides approximately six months of research management support from J-PAL NA staff. This support can be used for either full studies or pilots, and may include but is not limited to: coordinating communication across stakeholders; refining randomization implementation design and consent procedures; pilot design and implementation; study process monitoring. In addition, we recognize that ongoing research projects are navigating new challenges in response to COVID-19, and many researchers are designing new evaluations to evaluate and support response efforts to the pandemic. Through STReaM, our team offers hands-on support to ongoing projects as they think through modifications to the project, such as impact to timelines, navigating conversations with research partners, and adapting to phone or virtual research methods. We encourage researchers whose North America-based projects have changed as a result of COVID-19, or who are designing new research related to the virus or response efforts to apply for STReaM. For more information about STReaM and to apply, please visit the STREAM webpage or email us at [email protected].

COVID Guidelines 

*Updated May 29, 2020,* Please note the following changes to our request for proposal processes in response to the COVID-19 crisis:

  1. All applications must follow J-PAL’s COVID-19 response guidelines in regard to in-person interactions with subjects.

  2. Per MIT guidance, sponsored travel is prohibited through August 31st, 2020. J-PAL North America will not accept proposals that include travel before September 1st, this date is subject to change as the situation evolves.

  3. If your proposed project will feature in-person interactions with subjects, please note that the evolving situation could result in changes to these guidelines at a future date. Therefore, please be sure to include the following in your application materials:

  • Budget Narrative: Include a discussion of what funds will and will not be spent in what timeframes if the proposed project is paused, modified, or dissolved because of COVID-19 related disruptions.

  • Proposal Narrative: Outline aspects of the proposed project that can be completed right away vs aspects dependent on the status of the COVID response more broadly. The proposal should also include plans for conducting fieldwork, and how this will evolve should COVID-19 prevent in-person contact.


RFP issued - Wednesday, July 15th  

Proposal Submission Deadline - Friday, October 9th

Awards announced - Week of November 30th 

Connection to J-PAL's Mission

It is important to the scientific directors and the staff that J-PAL NA uses our limited resources as effectively as possible in line with our mission. One consideration in the RFP is the extent to which a study aligns with J-PAL's mission to reduce poverty by ensuring that policy is informed by scientific evidence. We think of poverty along multiple dimensions and define it broadly. The guiding questions we ask are:

Overall, does the study address a policy issue that has a significant impact for low-income populations and/or populations that have faced systemic economic marginalization on the basis of race/ethnicity in the North America context, such as  Black people or First Nations members?

More specifically,

  1. Does the policy issue have a disproportionate impact on low-income and/or economically marginalized populations?
  2. Does the intervention improve or increase access to resources and choices for people in poverty?
  3. Is the policy issue a broad, system-wide issue that affects many people, including low-income and/or economically marginalized populations?
  4. Is the policy issue an issue that, if unaddressed, could lead people to fall into poverty or exacerbate the likelihood of economic marginalization?

Connection to Mission
Examples of Tested Interventions
Issue with disproportionate impact on low-income populations; better/ more appropriate care for low-income people  Nurse home-visiting program for first-time low-income mothers
Access to resources and choices for low-income and/or economically marginalized populations Access to a race concordant healthcare provider for Black men seeking preventive health services 
Broad, system-wide issue that affects many people, including low-income and/or economically marginalized populations Medicare bundled payments for knee and hip replacements
Issues that, if unaddressed, could lead people to fall into poverty or exacerbate economic marginalization Program to buy and abolish medical debt; Blocking required disclosure of felony status as a hiring input 



Who may apply?

For all proposals, the pool of eligible applicants includes J-PAL affiliates, J-PAL post-docs, and invited researchers to any J-PAL North America initiative. For travel/proposal development grants, the pool of eligible applicants is extended to include graduate students who have a J-PAL affiliate on their thesis committee. All proposals may include collaborators outside of this network, but the principal investigator (PI) must be an eligible applicant.

Eligible applicants can submit a maximum of three proposals per twelve-month period, per initiative. Note: PI and co-PI status are counted towards this limit.

Who will review my application?

The Review Board for the COVID-19 Recovery and Resilience Initiative RFP includes Amy Finkelstein, Lawrence Katz, and J-PAL affiliate Judd Kessler. Each proposal will be peer reviewed by one member of the Review Board and two researchers and/or policy experts not on the Review Board. The Review Board will meet to agree on final funding decisions.

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