RESEARCH March 18, 2024

Request for Proposals: How effective was the fiscal response to the COVID-19 recession for workers?


The Washington Center for Equitable Growth seeks to deepen our understanding of how inequality affects economic growth and stability. Through our grantmaking, we aim to support research that will generate actionable insights for policymakers. 

We are currently requesting proposals for research that will equip federal policymakers with evidence of the effectiveness of the fiscal response to the COVID-19 recession in generating better macroeconomic outcomes and in generating better and more equitable outcomes for working-age individuals in the United States.

We are primarily interested in research focused on policy interventions from March 2020 to March 2021, such as the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security, or CARES, Act and the American Rescue Plan Act. The research should provide policymakers with actionable insights to inform effective policies to address future recessions.

Only economic policies are of interest. Policies aimed at addressing the pandemic are outside the scope of this request. We are primarily interested in economic outcomes—such as labor force participation, wages, job match and quality, productivity, consumption, and household finances. We will consider proposals that explore other outcomes alongside economic outcomes to the extent that they might aid or hinder people’s ability to participate in the labor market, for example. Analyses can examine impacts during the pandemic period and longer-term effects in the years following the pandemic.  

We support inquiry based on different kinds of evidence, different methodological approaches and insights from different academic disciplines. However, preference will be given to projects that use quasi-experimental methods or other rigorous statistical approaches to evaluate specific policies.

In future downturns, U.S. policymakers will need to grapple with whether the unique nature of the COVID-19 recession limits the applicability of research based on that episode. We encourage researchers to consider that issue. Projects that compare policies and outcomes from the COVID-19 recession with those from previous recessions may be useful in this regard and also are of general interest.

For all research questions, we are interested in heterogenous effects. Projects that can shed light on which U.S. workers were affected and differences by race, gender, income, skill level, industry, or occupation are of particular interest.

Questions of interest include but are not limited to:

  • What were the effects of policies that directly supported firms, such as the Paycheck Protection Program or small business disaster loans?
  • What were the effects of policies that directly supported workers, such as expanded Unemployment Insurance?
  • What are the pros and cons of supporting firms versus supporting workers?
  • What were the effects of policies that directly supported individuals and families, without reference to work, such as the expanded Child Tax Credit, Economic Impact Payments, and expanded Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits?
  • What were the effects of providing additional funding to states, such as the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds, or SLFRF, program authorized by the American Rescue Plan Act?

We are especially interested in supporting scholars who seek to engage with policymakers about their research findings. Those receiving funding through this Request for Proposals will be given the opportunity to receive training and support to participate in policymaker meetings, talk to members of the press, and otherwise translate their research findings for nonacademic audiences. See Equitable Growth’s “grantee resources” for examples of the support we provide and the ways in which we elevate research findings for nonacademic audiences.

Equitable Growth supports efforts to increase diversity in the social sciences. We recognize the importance of diverse perspectives in broadening and deepening the Center’s research on these questions.

Advisory committee

Alan Blinder, Equitable Growth Steering Committee member; Gordon S. Rentschler Memorial Professor of Economics and Public Affairs, Princeton University

Karen Dynan, Equitable Growth Steering Committee member; Professor of the Practice, Department of Economics, Harvard University 

Sameera Fazili, Equitable Growth Board of Directors member; former deputy director of the National Economic Council, The White House

Michael Linden, Equitable Growth Senior Policy Fellow; former executive associate director of the Office of Management and Budget, The White House

Shilpa Phadke, former deputy director of the Gender Policy Council, The White House


This Request for Proposals is open to researchers affiliated with a U.S. college or university. The affiliated university must administer the grant.  

Graduate students are not eligible to apply. However, they can be supported by a grant as part of the research team. Scholars who have completed their Ph.D. and will be in a faculty position by the time awards are administered (September 2024) are eligible to apply.

Researchers not affiliated with a college or university, or with non-U.S. colleges and universities can be part of a research team and can receive support via a grant. However, the Principal Investigator must be affiliated with a U.S. college or university, which must administer the grant.

Researchers who are the Principal Investigator for an open Equitable Growth grant with an end date beyond July 1, 2024 are not eligible to apply. Co-Principal Investigators/Collaborators with open grants are eligible to apply.


The deadline to apply is 11:59 p.m. EDT on Monday, May 20, 2024.

Funding decisions will be announced in August to allow funding to be dispersed at the start of the academic year. 

Budget guidelines

Grants awarded in response to this request are expected to fall in the $25,000 to $80,000 range. Slightly larger grants may be considered if the budget is well-justified. Grant timelines should be limited to 2 years.

Equitable Growth is willing to fund a wide range of activities, including researcher salary and benefits, research assistance, data purchase, and costs associated with conducting experiments or research-related travel. Our grants cannot cover indirect overhead. 

Summer salary is capped at $20,000 per year per Principal Investigator, not including fringe.

Fringe/benefit costs are allowable up to a maximum rate of 35 percent. 

Tuition and related fees are an allowable cost if student research assistants are included in the budget request.

We frequently partner with other foundations to support projects jointly or to share proposals that are not a fit for our grant program, but which may be of interest to other funders.

How to apply

To apply for a grant, use the online application portal to submit a six-page proposal, a two-page abbreviated curriculum vitae, and a draft budget using Equitable Growth’s budget template. Applicants are encouraged to use this template for the six-page proposal. 

Proposals must include:

  • Research question or problem the study seeks to address; note that you must include the specific policy intervention(s) under investigation
  • Outcome(s) the research seeks to address
  • Engagement with and expected contribution to the literature 
  • Methodological approach, including data sources and research design 
  • Status of data access; note that we are unlikely to fund a project if the process for securing data is not underway
  • Timeline for completion 
  • Any experience of the research team in engaging with nonacademic audiences (please see Equitable Growth’s “grantee resources” for examples of the supports we provide and the ways in which we elevate research findings for nonacademic audiences)

If tables, graphs, or other images are helpful in explaining your project, they can be included. While they will not count against the page limit, we encourage you to limit the use of images to one or two.

Citations can be included as endnotes and do not count against the page limit.

Evaluation criteria

Grants made in response to this request must be approved by the Advisory Committee. Proposals will be evaluated by Equitable Growth staff and external reviewers. External reviewers consist of subject-matter and methodological experts, and are selected with a commitment to diversity of race, gender, discipline, area of study, and university affiliation.

All applications will be evaluated on the following criteria:

  • Responsiveness to the questions posed in this request
  • Anticipated ability of the proposed research to provide policymakers with actionable insights to inform effective policy design and implementation to address future recessions
  • Research questions that are appropriately framed within the existing literature
  • Potential for proposed research to advance the literature
  • Methodological soundness of the research design, including appropriate data
  • Researchers’ potential to engage beyond academia to inform evidence-backed policy solutions

Feedback prior to submission

Equitable Growth cannot provide feedback on a written proposal prior to the application deadline, but staff are available to respond to questions. Email with questions.

You can also complete this form if you would like to schedule a time with a staff member to discuss your project or application. You will receive an email from to schedule a brief Zoom call.

Submit your application

Submit your application by creating an account and completing the submission form using our online application portal.

If you have questions or are having trouble with the application portal, please email or call 202-276-3368.



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