Proof That Cash Infusions Help Gig and Hourly Workers Find Jobs

New data from Steady boosts the case for unemployment insurance, stimulus checks, and universal basic income

By Adam Roseman, CEO, Steady

As Americans across the country struggle amid the financial wreckage of the pandemic, Steady focuses on the tens of millions who rely on gig work and hourly jobs. These workers, an estimated 36% of the labor force, face the “biggest problems,” writes Andrew Stettner, senior fellow at The Century Foundation, in a CNBC column. Citing data from Steady, he says “nearly one-third of hourly workers who experienced total income loss have gone at least 16 weeks without receiving unemployment assistance.” The longer workers go without financial assistance, the longer they’re likely to remain unemployed or underemployed. But an infusion of cash—whether from unemployment, stimulus checks or grants—can break that cycle.

Benefits increase work pickup

As part of our Steady Together initiative, we partnered with The Workers Lab to distribute $3.2 million in emergency cash grants to approximately 10,000 people. The recipients were selected at random from our members who lost at least at least a third of their income and work in sectors hit worst by COVID, including ridesharing and hospitality.

After the grants were delivered, we tracked recipients’ incomes. In the three months after getting this financial boost, grant recipients had average incomes 28% higher than those who did not receive the grants. 

Arguments against assistance refuted

These figures have crucial implications for policymakers. Throughout the past year, some people have opposed the continuation of unemployment benefits and stimulus check, insisting  huge numbers of people were making more money from unemployment than they did from work — an idea I debunked in Newsweek.

While opponents said giving money to people discourages them from looking for work, a study from the Chicago Fed found that people receiving benefits are more likely to look for work.

Our figures show that this effect is just as strong for people who count on gig work, project assignments and hourly work for the bulk of their income. When people receive cash grants, they can spend less time searching for ways to feed themselves and their families, and more time looking for job opportunities.

Support for universal basic income

While the Steady data underscores the need for temporary assistance through unemployment and stimulus programs, it also speaks to a more lasting solution: universal basic income (UBI). We’re pleased to have piloted UBI campaigns in districts such as CA-34 in downtown Los Angeles and TX-31 in Austin, which had congressional candidates supported by former presidential candidate Andrew Yang. We are also excited to see the efforts of former Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, and many others through the organization Mayors for a Guaranteed Income who have the power to make UBI a reality at scale using Steady’s highly automated and scalable technology.

Steady is committed to advancing these efforts. We’ll do all we can to empower our more than 2.5 million members to increase their incomes, achieve their goals, build community and improve the environment for gig and hourly workers everywhere.