President Bolsters Evidence and Innovation Agenda in FY 2016 Budget

The Obama evidence and innovation agenda took several steps forward in the president’s proposed FY 2016 federal fiscal budget, released earlier today.

Highlights include the following:

Pay for Success (PFS)

The budget proposes $364 million for new pay-for-success projects, the centerpiece of which is a proposed $300 million Pay for Success Incentive Fund at the Department of the Treasury, similar to bipartisan legislation introduced last year in the House and Senate and expected to be reintroduced again later this month. The budget proposes another $64 million for pay-for-success initiatives in the Departments of Education and Justice and at the Social Innovation Fund (see this fact sheet).

The proposed SIF funding would, if enacted, be the third round of PFS funding for that program. The first round of grants was announced late last year. A second round was funded by the omnibus budget bill enacted in December and is likely to be announced by SIF later this year.

The PFS fact sheet also provides an update on a number of smaller federal PFS projects funded in earlier years:

DOJ and HUD are working together to implement PFS using up to $7.5 million of Second Chance Act funding authorized under the Act, including $5 million to implement projects using the permanent supportive housing model. Moreover, HUD and HHS have noted that their respective Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery and Sandy Social Service Block Grant Disaster Relief funding may be leveraged for PFS strategies, where appropriate.

These latest efforts build on the first steps by Federal agencies to support PFS. In September 2013, DOL awarded almost $24 million to the States of Massachusetts and New York to increase employment and reduce recidivism among formerly incarcerated individuals through the Workforce Innovation Fund. In September 2012, DOJ awarded a PFS implementation grant to Cuyahoga County, Ohio and a planning grant to Lowell, Massachusetts under the Second Chance Act as well as a contract for the Urban Institute to produce a blueprint for governments to reduce recidivism using PFS.

Funding for Evidence and Evidence-based Initiatives

The budget proposes continued and/or expanded funding for a number of evidence-based initiatives:

  • Social Innovation Fund: SIF is level-funded at $70 million, with 20 percent reserved for new pay-for-success grants (as mentioned above).
  • Investing in Innovation Fund (i3): The budget proposes $300 million for i3, more than doubling spending for the current year.
  • Leveraging What Works Grant Funding: The budget proposes $100 for a competitive grant fund at the Department of Education that would encourage school districts “to shift funds to activities for which there is moderate or strong evidence of effectiveness.”
  • First in the World (Higher Ed): The budget proposes $200 million for this program, which focuses on building the
    evidence base in higher education, more than tripling funding from $60 million this year.
  • Energy Assistance Innovation Fund: The budget requests $200 million for a proposed new energy assistance innovation fund housed within the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).
  • Promise Zones: The budget proposes a number of tax incentives for areas designated as Promise Zones, including those for hiring workers and incentives for capital investment.
  • Promise and Choice Neighborhoods: The budget proposes funding for approximately 25 new Promise Neighborhoods and eight new Choice Neighborhoods.
  • Upward Mobility Project: The budget proposes a new initiative, called the Upward Mobility Project, that will allow up to 10 communities, states, or consortia of states and communities to apply to combine funds from up to four block grant programs — the Social Services Block Grant, the Community Development Block Grant, the Community Services Block Grant, and the HOME Program — for evidence-based programs designed to promote self-sufficiency and improve educational and other outcomes for children. The budget proposes another $1.5 billion in additional funding over five years for these projects in addition to the existing block grant money.
  • Performance Partnership Pilots (P3): The budget proposes a third round of 10 new P3 pilots for disconnected youth. The competition for the first round is currently open. Authority for a second round was provided in the omnibus budget passed in December.
  • General Evaluation Capacity: The budget proposes a significant increase in federal evaluation capacity, including $60 million for early childhood research and evaluation at HHS and increased set-aside authority for evaluation for higher education programs, career and technical and adult education, rehabilitation services, Department of Labor programs, and the Social Services Block Grant. For more on evaluation investments at the Administration for Children and Families, see here.

Additional information can be found in this fact sheet.


  • Evidence Commission: The budget endorses a proposed Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) last year.
  • New OMB Evidence and Innovation Team Home Page: While the creation of a web page at OMB might not normally be considered big news, it does provide an online home for OMB’s evidence and innovation team, including the most recent budget materials and earlier White House documents.
  • Administrative Data: The budget includes a whole chapter devoted to increasing the use of administrative data in performance management and program evaluation.
  • GPRA Update: The budget also includes a progress report on implementation of the GPRA Modernization Act.
  • White House Social and Behavioral Sciences Team (SBST): The budget proposes expanding a team at GSA, coordinated by the Office of Science and Technology Policy, that is “already helping over a dozen federal agencies test the impact of behaviorally-informed interventions on program impact and efficiency using rapid, rigorous, and low-cost randomized control trials.”
  • Provider Scorecards: As noted last December, the administration has been pushing for the adoption of provider scorecards. In the proposed budget, the administration proposes expanding access to Unemployment Insurance (UI) earnings data to create scorecards for federally-subsidized job training providers, “a goal of both the administration’s job training review and the bipartisan Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.”


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