An omnibus appropriations package that Congress is slated to vote on later this week contains no funding for the Social Innovation Fund. Barring any last minute changes, this may be the end of the road for this signature evidence-based program.
The bill clocks in at more than 1,600 pages and Congress must pass it before Friday evening to avert a shutdown, though the bill is likely to pass easily because it contains key boosts to defense and domestic programs viewed by leaders in both parties as vastly preferable to another stopgap measure.
SIF has achieved a number of successes since it was created in 2009. It has also served as a major platform for federal support for pay for success. In the end, however, it was probably too closely associated with President Obama to survive in a Washington controlled by Republicans.
Barring any unforeseen circumstances, the program would likely be forced into wind down mode. The fate of existing SIF-funded projects, all of which had at least some funding from other sources, is less clear.
Other evidence-based initiatives in the appropriations bill fared better:
- Education Innovation and Research (EIR) program: Cut by $20 million from $120 million last year.
- Teenage Pregnancy Prevention (TPP) program: Flat-funded at $101 million. The bill provides $6.8 million for an evaluation of the program.
- Performance Partnership Pilots (P3): Authority for this program is continued. Existing pilots are authorized to operate for up to an additional five years.
Trump Administration on Evidence
Despite the disappointing news on SIF, the Trump administration has taken some other positive steps on evidence-based policy. In an April 12 memo from OMB, the White House reaffirmed its commitment to the use of evidence in the budget. Key language from the memo is below:
Build and use a portfolio of evidence to improve effectiveness. Agencies should propose strategies to use limited resources as smartly as possible by asking: what works, for whom, and under what conditions; whether programs are being implemented effectively; and how programs can be improved to produce better results. Evidence may include results from program monitoring and evaluations, performance measures, statistics, and other forms of research and analysis.
The administration’s commitment to evidence may be made more clear in its full budget request for the next fiscal year, which may be coming soon.