State of Play: Pay for Success and Evidence-Based Policy, February/March 2017

The following post was written by America Forward’s Government Affairs Director Nicole Truhe.

Over the last two years, the Pay for Success and evidence-based policy and practice space have advanced considerably because of both federal and local interest in and support of the effort. Congress and the former Administration advanced legislation and funding opportunities to support the study and implementation of the use of evidence and Pay for Success approaches across a variety of issue areas. States and cities have taken advantage of these new policies and funding opportunities as well as taken a direct lead on integrating a more outcomes-focused approach to what they fund and programs they support.

With 2017 underway, which has included the ushering in of a new Administration and the 115th Congress, efforts continue to advance and support Pay for Success, evidence, and innovation policy and practice. With the first session of this new Congress already underway, America Forward held our first Pay for Success and Evidence-Based Policy Network call recently to discuss the current “State of Play” in Pay for Success and evidence-based policy. This post reflects the major updates provided and additional resources needed to access more detail about each major piece of legislation, Administrative initiative or state level effort underway.

Congressional Updates

Appropriations: As updated in previous posts, Congress did not complete their normal order Appropriations process prior to the end of the fiscal year on September 30th of last year. As a result, two Continuing Resolutions (CR) were passed—one in late September and then another in early December—to continue funding for federal programs. The latest CR continues level funding at current spending levels for all federal programs with a small across-the-board rescission of .191%. This CR expires April 28, 2017. To review the CR, click here.
Current Status: This latest update means that all programs will continue to be funded at their FY16 levels with the noted minor across-the-board rescission. Since Congress returned from the holiday recess in early January, there have been conflicting reports about how they will keep the government funded past the current CR April 28th deadline and through to the end of the fiscal year. Suggestions include another similarly structured CR through to the end of the fiscal year—September 30th, another CR but with anomalies/additional cuts to specific programs through September 30th, or the passage of individual spending bills setting new funding levels for programs. The path forward is still unclear but Congress has some time to determine the best path forward, which will be weighed against all other competing priorities.

Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking: Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) championed legislation to create a commission to develop practices and processes for ensuring the use of outcomes and evidence when making federal policy and budget decisions. The Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking was officially established in 2016 after the passage of the Evidence-Based Policymaking Commission Act. The Commission is tasked with making recommendations for how best to incorporate outcomes into federal program design.
Current Status: Since all Commission members were named in July, the members have been meeting regularly on a variety of topics and have heard from experts as well as from stakeholders during the public hearings they have been holding in DC and across the country. Additional meetings in Washington, DC as well as regionally are already scheduled for early 2017. The work of the Commission is statutorily scheduled to wrap up by the fall of 2017. A list of members, all meeting notices, and information from prior meetings can be accessed at It should be noted that one Commission member did exit earlier this year. The OMB designate on the Commission left after she departed the Office due to the change in Administration.

Social Impact Partnership to Pay for Results Act: This legislation has been previously introduced in both the 113th and 114th Congresses. A comprehensive Pay for Success bill, the legislation would direct federal resources to states and local communities to support innovative Pay for Success arrangements.
Current Status: Led this time by Rep. Tiberi (R-OH) and Rep. Delaney (D-MD), H.R. 576 Social Impact Partnership to Pay for Results Act, was introduced in January and continues to garner bi-partisan support. The legislation currently has eight co-sponsors evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats. SIPRA has been referred to relevant jurisdictional committees but no further movement has taken place to date.

Agency Update

Department of Education

Over the course of 2016, the Department of Education released a number of Notices of Funding Availability (NOFAs) and other contract requests for work to support the study of Pay for Success as a viable strategy for various populations and programming in the education system. Two such efforts are newly underway with updates made since the last State of Play update.

  1. Career and Technical Education (CTE): To improve outcomes for underserved, high-need youth, the Department awarded a grant to Social Finance Inc., in partnership withJobs for the Future (JFF), to support the development of PFS projects to implement new or scale up existing high-quality CTE opportunities. This first ever PFS competition in K-12 education is underway with applications due March 17th for interested parties. Details about the competition can be accessed here.
  2. Preschool Development Grant: Up to $2.8 Million in funding was made available for testing through a feasibility study whether Pay for Success is a viable strategy for implementing preschool programs. After reviewing applications that were due in early October, the Department announced in late December the eight jurisdictions representing six states that were awarded the funding. More details about the awardees and their applications can be found here.

Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS)

Through the Social Innovation Fund (SIF) at CNCS, almost $35 Million federal dollars have been leveraged by a 1:1 match of private dollars to support the study and development of Pay for Success projects. This funding is available to determine if and how funding for social services can be tied to the achievement of long-term outcomes for true impact in low-income communities across the country. Using an intermediary structure like the SIF Classic program, organizations across the country are supporting states, cities, and nonprofit organizations to study and structure PFS projects and/or assist in ecosystem related activities to advance a Pay for Success approach to policymaking. There have been many announcements since the last State of Play update and links to many are included below.

  1. Harvard Kennedy School Government Performance Lab
  2. Local Initiatives Support Corporation
  3. Sorenson Impact Center

Department of Agriculture

In its Conservation Innovation Grants, which are used to stimulate the development and adoption of conservation approaches and technologies, the Department of Agriculture included a preference for PFS models in applications to help stimulate conservation adoption. Applications were due January 9th and America Forward will be tracking the grant award announcement to see what interest this may have received from communities and what may come of this focus within this innovation grant.

State and Field Updates

Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative: Since 2011, the Results First Initiative has worked with states and counties to help them implement a cost-benefit analysis approach to their policy and budget decisions. Based on their work to date, they recently released a 50-state study assessing the prevalence and sophistication of six evidence-based policymaking actions. This comprehensive report is a great resource and can be found here.

J-PAL State and Local Innovation Initiative: The J-PAL State and Local Innovation Initiative supports state and local governments that are interested in developing randomized evaluations to inform their policy questions. J-PAL just completed their second competition round in mid-February but details about the initiative, previous awardees, and elements of the latest competition can be reviewed here and here.

Early Childhood Education Action Tank: Led by the Save the Children Action Network, this group of advocacy groups, businesses and financial institutions formed an alliance to recommend a series of ideas meant to increase children’s access to high-quality early childhood education as part of comprehensive tax reform, which includes Pay for Success. The recommendations have been shared with members of Congress and the new Administration. More information please contact Roy Chrobocinski with Save the Children Action Network.

If you are interested in learning more about Pay for Success and evidence-based policy or America Forward’s related advocacy efforts, please contact America Forward’s Government Affairs Director, Nicole Truhe.

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