How to Maximize the Impact of Cash Transfers, During and After COVID-19

How to Maximize the Impact of Cash Transfers, During and After COVID-19
A cash withdrawal at an ATM in Macclesfield, England (Photo by Lynne Cameron for Press Association via AP Images).

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With a third of the global population on lockdown amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, which has killed nearly 40,000 people as of March 31, governments are rightfully thinking about how to make it easier for their citizens to stay home and reduce activities that are likely to further spread the disease. The restrictions on movement, while important for public health reasons, mean that millions of workers are losing jobs and income necessary to cover their basic needs—including the housing that allows them to stay at home to begin with—not to mention investments in their future. Those who toil in the informal sector across the developing world, workers on renewable contracts and people who work in the “gig economy” are particularly vulnerable. COVID-19 also threatens to exacerbate already dire conditions for low-income communities, as well as in humanitarian settings.

At least 84 countries are now implementing income-boosting measures to assist those whose livelihoods have been hit by the coronavirus pandemic, including 50 new cash transfer initiatives that have been introduced in countries ranging from Ecuador and Italy to Iran and Jordan. Hong Kong and Singapore are rolling out one-time universal transfers, while other governments, including in Brazil, China and Indonesia, are planning additional payments as part of existing social assistance programs. The U.S. government last week approved a $2.2 trillion rescue package that includes plans to send checks directly to individuals; India has announced a similar package worth $22.5 billion.

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