Economic Development

Cash Infusions: Stability now, Security Later

May 13, 2020  • Financial Security Program


The CARES Act’s provision to send $1,200 to people marks a notable shift in political willingness to give people money – and it refuted long-held skepticism about whether low-income people know what’s best in how to spend their money.  Does the CARES Act reflect only the extreme needs of the moment? Or are we entering a new era of increased agreement about the importance of money as a foundational support?

Under either circumstance, the government is now learning something non-profits have known for years—delivering money isn’t easy.  The Aspen Institute Financial Security Program has been studying cash infusions in partnership with direct service providers, summarized in a forthcoming series of briefs around the evidence for, innovations in, and effects of cash infusions on family financial well-being.  Join us for a digital conversation that will highlight the various ways policymakers, funders, nonprofits, and business leaders are proposing getting more money into the hands of people and why they believe that approach is essential to the financial security of families– both now and beyond this crisis.

Attendees of the digital event will:

  • Receive a written overview of cash transfer programs in the U.S. and around the world
  • Understand the financial realities that people across the income spectrum face and why cash transfers are an effective tool to solve some of these challenges
  • Hear the design considerations which policymakers, funders, and business leaders should know as they design cash-transfer programs for their residents and employees

The Aspen Institute Financial Security Program’s research on cash infusions is made possible with support from the Mastercard Impact Fund, in collaboration with the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth, MetLife Foundation, The Prudential Foundation, and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

Join us for a lively conversation on May 13—and don’t forget to sign up for the Aspen Institute Financial Security Program Newsletter.

Featured Speakers

Charlie Anderson 
Senior Advisor for Tax and Economic Policy to Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO)

Charlie Anderson has been Senior Advisor for Tax and Economic Policy to Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado since March 2017, developing policies to reduce child poverty; expand economic mobility; reform our tax code; expand automatic stabilizers, including through unemployment insurance reform, SNAP expansion, and state and local fiscal relief; combat evictions and expand affordable housing; reform our budget and appropriations process; and a variety of other issues. He also has led the development of economic and tax policy related to Bennet’s COVID-19 efforts. 

He previously worked in the Obama Administration in the White House Domestic Policy Council from February 2009 through August 2010; at the Department of the Treasury from September 2010 through April 2013; and as Senior Advisor to the Director of the White House National Economic Council (NEC) from October 2014 through January 2017. In between his time at Treasury and the NEC, he worked as an advisor to former Secretary of the Treasury Tim Geithner. He graduated with a degree in Public Policy from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2005 and a Master’s in Public Policy from Harvard’s Kennedy School in 2008. 

Mia Birdsong 
Senior Fellow, the Economic Security Project; Author, How We Show Up

Mia is a pathfinder, community curator, and storyteller who steadily engages the leadership and wisdom of people experiencing injustice to chart new visions of American life. She has a gift for making visible and leveraging the brilliance of everyday people so that our collective gifts reach larger spheres of influence, cultural and political change, and create wellbeing for everyone.

In her book How We Show Up: Reclaiming Family, Friendship, and Community (Hachette, June 2020), Mia charts swaths of community life and points us toward the promise of our collective vitality. In “More Than Enough,” her podcast miniseries from The Nation, she expands the current guaranteed income movement by tapping into the voices and visions of low-income people. Previously, as founding Co-Director of Family Story, Mia lifted up a new national story about what makes a good family. As Vice President of the Family Independence Initiative, she leveraged the power of data and stories to illuminate and accelerate the initiative low-income families take to improve their lives.

Believing that, taken collectively, we are the guides we most need, Mia has made an art out of inviting people into rich explorations of how we map paths forward. Her public conversations, like the New America series centering Black women as agents of change and her 2015 TED talk “The Story We Tell About Poverty Isn’t True,” draw targeted attention to the stories of people who are finding their way into leadership roles despite myriad barriers, while also highlighting the vibrant terrain of all marginalized people who are leading on the ground and solving for tomorrow.

Mia is a Senior Fellow of the Economic Security Project. She was an inaugural Ascend Fellow and faculty member with The Aspen Institute, a New American California Fellow, and Advocate-in-Residence with University of Pennsylvania’s School of Social Policy and Practice. Mia lives and dreams big on the occupied land of the Chochenyo Ohlone people (AKA Oakland, CA).


Rachel Black 
Associate Director co-leading the public and private safety net workstream,the Aspen Institute Financial Security Program@AspenFSP

Rachel Black is an Associate Director of the Aspen Institute’s Financial Security Program.  Previously, she was the Director of New America’s Family-Centered Policy program, which advocated a strategy for designing more equitable and inclusive social policies by centering the communities who would be directly impacted. As part of this work, she led a collaboration with Springboard to Opportunities in Jackson, MS around the policy report, Becoming Visible; Race, Economic Security, and Political Voice in Jackson, MS, This report was deeply informed by interviews and focus groups with women living in public housing in Jackson, and culminated with a set of recommendations, including advancement of a guaranteed income. Prior to this role, Rachel was a Senior Policy Analyst in New America’s Asset Building Program and focused on a range of policies to increase financial security among low-income households. Rachel brings extensive experience analyzing cash-transfer policies, developing reform options, and communicating these ideas to broad audiences, and her work has been featured in a diverse set of outlets, including The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Atlantic, Slate, and Essence.

Previously, Rachel was a policy analyst in the Government Relations department of the national grassroots anti-hunger organization Bread for the World. In this capacity, she helped shape the organization’s domestic policy agenda and contributed to its legislative advocacy around issues ranging from reform of farm commodity programs during the 2008 Farm Bill reauthorization to improvement in the country’s social safety net in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Rachel holds a BS in History, Technology, and Society from the Georgia Institute of Technology.


Sheida Elmi @SheidaElmi
Research Program Manager, the Aspen Institute Financial Security Program@AspenFSP

Sheida Isabel Elmi is Research Program Manager at the Aspen Institute Financial Security Program (FSP). Sheida manages FSP’s Consumer Insights Collaborative, an effort across nine nonprofits to collectively understand and amplify data about the financial lives of low- and moderate-income households. She will also support research efforts related to employer-sponsored benefits and other topics connected to short- and long-term financial stability and security. Before joining Aspen, Sheida was an associate manager with The Pew Charitable Trusts’ Financial Security and Mobility project. There, she led quantitative analyses, in-depth interviews, and focus groups to explore how families fare across different measures of financial health and synthesized the findings for a variety of audiences, including the public and policymakers. Before that, she was a research analyst at MEF Associates, where she helped evaluate federal programs aimed at promoting economic security through education, matched-savings accounts, and employment and training programs. Sheida has a Master of Public Policy degree from the University of California, Berkeley and a bachelor’s degree in political science and international studies from Northwestern University.

Aisha D. Nyandoro, Ph.D. 
Chief Executive Officer, Springboard To Opportunities, 

Aisha Nyandoro is on a mission to holistically and compassionately support families as they work to exit poverty. As the Founding Chief Executive Officer of Springboard To Opportunities, she uses a “radically resident-driven” approach to end generational poverty. She’s both deeply practical, strategic and very impatient; launching the very first of its kind guaranteed income program for single Black mothers in the history of the United States – The Magnolia Mother’s.

Nyandoro has more than two decades of experience developing, implementing, and evaluating programs aimed at improving the quality of life for individuals with limited resources. She has worked in various capacities– as an academic, evaluator, philanthropist, and nonprofit executive. These varied experiences have allowed her to better understand systems and policies that impact vulnerable communities. Prior to serving with Springboard, Aisha served as a Program Officer with the Foundation for the Mid-South. During her tenure, she strengthened the Foundation’s community development portfolio by executing a plan focused on five specific strategies aimed at transforming communities. Additionally, she led the Foundation’s place-based initiative – Community of Opportunities. Under her leadership, community leaders were able to leverage more than $20 million in federal and private funding. In addition, she established statewide, regional, and national public-private partnerships to create resources and assist the Foundation in achieving its mission and goals.

She holds a B.A. in Psychology from Tennessee State University, a M.A. in Community Psychology and Urban Affairs and a Ph.D. in Ecological Community Psychology from Michigan State University. Aisha’s commitment to community and passion for social change is demonstrated through her varied volunteer work including Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., and the various boards of directors and advisory councils to which she lends her expertise and service.  Aisha has received multiple honors, including recognition as a fellow of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation Community Leadership Network and Ascend at the Aspen Institute.   She is a TEDx speaker and her work has been featured in both print and news media outlets including: The Washington Post, Amanpour & Company, Essence Magazine, NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt, CNN, MSNBC, Fast Company and The Nation to name a few.  The varied recognitions for her work distinguish her as a trailblazer in the larger national conversation about economic and racial inequity.  When not working to transform the world, she is a wife and Mommy to the best two little boys in the world.


Ameya Pawar, @Ameya_Pawar_IL
Former Alderman For The 47th Ward Of The City Of Chicago

Ameya Pawar is the former alderman of Chicago’s 47th Ward and the first (and only) Asian and Indian American elected to the Chicago City Council. After leaving office, Ameya joined the Economic Security Project as a senior fellow and is working on narrative change efforts around guaranteed income and public options, including public banks. In 2020, Ameya was named a Leadership in Government Fellow with the Open Society Foundations (OSF). His OSF work will focus on public banking and public options with leading figures and organizations across the country and world. In addition, Ameya is a senior adviser to The Academy Group, a Chicago-based social enterprise working to break the racial wealth gap and is a lecturer at the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration.

While in office, Ameya focused legislative efforts around social justice, worker rights, and economic justice. To this end, Ameya led most all labor policy and worker rights legislation passed in Chicago over the last eight years, including raising the minimum wage to $13/hr., guaranteeing paid sick leave, combating wage theft, and preserving housing for Chicago’s most vulnerable.

Ameya is a US State Department Critical Language Program alum, a 2012 University of Illinois Edgar Fellow, and was named to Crain’s Chicago 40 under 40 in 2011. Most recently, he was named a 2018 McCormick Foundation Executive Fellow.

Prior to leaving office, Ameya chaired the Chicago Resilient Families Task Force. The task force made recommendations on a city-run guaranteed income pilot.

Ameya is an expert on the connections between disaster planning and response and poverty. In 2014, Ameya co-wrote the textbook, “Emergency Management and Social Intelligence: A Comprehensive All-Hazards Approach.” The book was published by Taylor & Francis.

Prashanthi Ravanavarapu
Senior Director of Product Management, Consumer Financial Services, Emerging Markets & QR Code at PayPal, 

Prashanthi Ravanavarapu leads PayPal’s Consumer Financial Services, QR Code and Emerging Markets product teams. In her current role, she leads the teams focused on building products to improve customers financial health across the globe. Prior to this, she was PayPal’s Product Architect leading product innovation to  solve the needs of the financially underserved. Prashanthi’s mission is to put a dent on global poverty through democratizing financial services for all. She believes in the intersection of profit and purpose and is enabling that at PayPal by bringing human centered design, lean and behavioral science to product innovation. She has had various roles in Data, Architecture, Strategy and  Product Management.  In a previous role, she lead Consumer Cause Product at PayPal and was responsible for connecting the then 220+ mil customers to the causes they care about and was instrumental in a hockey stick growth in consumer donations. In addition to leading cross-functional teams focused on product innovation, she is a change agent and an intrapreneur. She has founded several programs like Opportunity Hack to create opportunities for more people to enable impact through their skills. Prashanthi was also recently named as one of the most influential women in Payments in 2019.

Lauren Renaud 
Director of Analytics, the Family Independence Initiative FII, 

As the Director of Analytics for FII, Lauren Renaud is focused on how data can support the UpTogether platform, and be used to amplify the experiences of our members to inform decision makers. Lauren joined FII in 2017, after earning her Masters of Science in Public Policy and Management with a concentration in data analytics from Carnegie Mellon University. 

Helah Robinson 
National Program Director, LIFT, 

At LIFT, Helah oversees new program design and implementation across the organization’s four regions. She works closely with the regional teams to use Member feedback, program evaluation data and stakeholder input to improve LIFT’s services, design new program innovations and maximize impact. 

Helah LIFTs because she believes in every person’s potential to succeed when they are supported by their community and connected to the right opportunities and resources. 

Before joining LIFT, Helah served as Program Manager-Africa at Vital Voices Global Partnership, a Washington, D.C.-based international development NGO that identifies and invests in emerging women leaders around the world. At Vital Voices, Helah designed and led a multi-million dollar, multi-year international economic development program for women entrepreneurs across sub-Saharan Africa and served as the regional expert for Vital Voices’ human rights and political participation programs in the region. Helah also has experience in organizational capacity building, strategic planning, and stakeholder engagement and research. Helah holds a Bachelor of Science in Foreign Service and a Certificate in International Development from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service and a Master of Public Policy from Harvard Kennedy School. While at the Kennedy School she received the Carr Center Prize for Human Rights and worked with a team of students to recommend improvements to Boston’s early education portfolio. 

What you Need to Know

Short Term Stability: A Foundation for Security and Well-Being

Empower Families Through Investment: LIFT’s Family Goal Fund

Why We Need Cash Transfers in Response to COVID-19

More Than Enough podcast by Mia Birdsong and The Nation

Guaranteed Income and Cash Infusions: A Three-Part Series

Learn more

This event is part of the Conversations in Financial Security in Response to COVID-19: How to Triage, Recover, and Stabilize series, an ongoing digital event series hosted by the Aspen Institute Financial Security Program that works to triage the immediate effects of the current pandemic, design solutions allowing households to recover, and address the structural challenges to stabilize financial security at the household level.