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Google, Andrew Yang, and Ariana Grande back a new effort to send an extra $1,000 to 100,000 U.S. families in need

April 21, 2020, 2:00 PM UTC

A broad coalition of tech startups, charities, and public figures today announced the launch of Project 100, a drive to distribute $100 million in privately-donated aid to 100,000 of the low-income families hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic. The project has raised more than $55 million of its goal and is already distributing the funds, with nearly 5,000 families so far each receiving $1,000.

Major donors so far include Blue Meridian partners, an anti-poverty philanthropy; and, Google’s philanthropic wing., Google CEO Sundar Pichai, and Flourish Ventures jointly donated $3 million to the fund on April 14. Public figures are also donating, including Ariana Grande, Stacey Abrams, Andrew Yang, and Stephen Colbert.

Project 100 is being run by three groups: Propel, a financial technology startup that helps the recipients of food aid in the U.S. manage their SNAP benefits, is running the application process. Educational nonprofit Stand for Children is working with recipients directly, and GiveDirectly, a nonprofit focused on direct cash donations to the needy, which has primarily operated in the developing world, is running the fundraising and distributing some of the funds through a partnership with PayPal.

The program will impact only a tiny portion of the most needy families in America. While the goal of Project 100 is to send assistance to 100,000 families, more than 38 million Americans received SNAP benefits in 2019 alone—a number that is likely to climb dramatically in 2020.

Applications for the program will be offered to users of FreshEBT, Propel’s benefits-management app. A random selection of users who meet certain unemployment criteria will be invited to apply. Some of the Project 100 funds will be earmarked by geography—$2 million of Google’s donation, for example, will go to families in San Francisco.

Propel has run user surveys showing just how direly needed the extra help is. According to Propel CEO Jimmy Chen, 7 out of every 8 EBT recipients with a job on March 1 had their hours cut dramatically or lost their positions entirely. Meanwhile, only one third of the app’s users have received a government stimulus payment. The other two thirds, Chen says, likely either didn’t file 2019 taxes or don’t have a bank account for the IRS to deposit funds into.

Those delayed checks could have dire consequences for those living at the economic margins, and mirror massive failures in the U.S. unemployment system and small business emergency loan programs. Project 100 is working to make receiving payments easier, in a way that might serve as a future model for the government: Recipients can receive their funds via a Moneygram redemption code or deposit into a PayPal account.

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