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 $150,000 to $250,000, with a maximum of $400,000. The award period may be up to three years. A full project proposal is one where applicants:
● Can propose a clear and well-developed research question
● Can provide detailed randomization design and power calculations
● Can indicate outcomes of interest
● Can provide proof of commitment from partner organizations (in the form of letters of support)
Full project proposals can be submitted for funding an ongoing study that has already begun without J-PAL North America funding.

Pilot Studies 

Pilot studies may be awarded a maximum of $50,000, with the exception of pilot projects that also apply for J-PAL-funded STReaM support (please see below). The award period may be up to three years. A pilot proposal is one where applicants:
● Seek to answer a particular research question; however, the design and implementation require further testing and development before a full project launches
● Can clearly explain how the pilot will lead to a randomized evaluation in the future, although random assignment does not necessarily need to occur during the pilot

Projects that receive pilot funding may apply for additional funding in future RFPs.


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 tasks like coordinating communication across stakeholders, refining randomization implementation design and consent procedures, pilot design and implementation, and 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].

Travel/proposal development grants

Researchers may be awarded a maximum of $5,000 for one year. Travel/proposal development grants are to be used for early stage activities with the goal of launching a randomized evaluation in North America. Expenses covered under this award are intended for travel and other costs incurred while doing fieldwork or building relationships with potential implementing partners. Please note that travel/proposal development grants are paid by direct reimbursement to the PI and cannot cover any activity that requires review by an IRB.

Eligibility Criteria 

J-PAL affiliates, J-PAL post-doctoral fellows, and researchers invited by J-PAL North America (invited researchers) to participate in any North America Initiative are eligible to apply for funding of any type. Applicants can submit a maximum of three proposals per 12-month period to Initiative. PI and co-PI status are counted towards this limit.

Graduate students may apply for funding for full research projects, pilot studies, or travel/proposal development grants. Graduate students are not eligible to apply for Short Term Research Management Assistance (STReaM).

To apply, graduate students must meet the following criteria. 

  • They have a J-PAL affiliate on their thesis committee (please note that having an invited researcher on a student’s thesis committee does not satisfy this criterion). The J-PAL affiliate does not need to be based at the same university as the graduate student.

    • Pre-thesis PhD students who do not yet have an official thesis committee but who have a J-PAL affiliate supervising the proposed project who anticipates being on their committee may also apply. 

  • They received a travel/proposal development grant from J-PAL for the specific project proposed or have documented evidence of successful piloting activities. 

  • For those graduate students who previously received funding from J-PAL, the total allowable per project budget is $50,000. For example, if a graduate student received a $5,000 travel/proposal development grant previously and subsequently applies for pilot funding for that same project, the maximum budget that can be requested is $45,000.

Graduate students may be awarded a maximum of two travel/proposal development grants and two grants for pilot/full study funding during their time as graduate students.

Covid Guidelines 

Please note the following modifications to our request for proposal processes in response to the Covid-19 crisis. These are in place as of October 29, 2020 until noted otherwise.

  1.  All applications must follow J-PAL’s Covid-19 response guidelines in regard to in-person interactions with subjects. 
  2. If your proposed project will feature in-person interactions with subjects, vendors, or partners, 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, which are listed in more detail in the “How to Apply” section:
    • 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.
  3.  Per MIT guidance, J-PAL North America will not be sponsoring travel for the foreseeable future. However, if you wish to include travel as a line item in your please address as indicated in point 2 above.

The following funding opportunities are available in addition to regular proposals submitted to this RFP:

  • Proposals for NEW projects that will generate rapid, actionable insights that can help inform policy responses to the Covid-19 pandemic. Proposals will be reviewed under our standard evaluation review criteria as well as their potential to produce informative and timely findings to address the current crisis.


November 23, 2020 - RFP is issued
January 15, 2021 - Proposal Submission Deadline
Week of March 8, 2021 - Awards Announced

In rare instances, J-PAL North America will consider off-cycle proposals for projects, including pilots, facing time constraints due to factors outside of their control. Decisions on these applications are typically made in about two weeks. We accept travel/proposal development grants at any time of the year.

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 assess mission-alignment using the following guiding questions. Not all of these questions may be relevant to all proposals. Together, they reflect our broad conceptualization of what constitutes a policy that can contribute to poverty reduction.

Study population

  • Is the study population low-income or living in poverty?
  • Is the study population one that has risk factors associated with falling into poverty?
  • Is the study population one that is at risk of living in or falling into poverty due to economic marginalization produced through structural racism in North America, such as Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC)?

Policy Issue

  • Does the policy issue have a significant or disproportionate impact on low-income and/or economically marginalized populations? 
  • Does the intervention improve or increase access to resources and choices for low-income and/or economically marginalized populations?
  • Is the policy issue a broad, system-wide issue that affects many people, including low- income and/or economically marginalized populations?
  •  Is the policy issue an issue that, if unaddressed, could lead people to fall into poverty?
  • Does the policy issue relate to issues of structural racism that economically marginalize populations in the North America context?

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 will review my application?

The Review Board for the Covid-19 Recovery and Resilience Initiative RFP includes Alicia Sasser ModestinoLawrence 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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