Providing Cash Assistance to Returning Citizens in Unprecedented Times

In April 2020, the Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO) conceived and implemented the Returning Citizen Stimulus (RCS) program in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. With over $24M distributed, it is the largest-ever conditional cash transfer to formerly incarcerated individuals.

NEW: RCS Evaluation Shows Cash Assistance Made Participants Feel More Financially Stable in the Period Following Incarceration

The evaluation—published by MDRC, a nonprofit, nonpartisan education and social policy research organization—notes that the majority of RCS recipients surveyed for the study reported feeling a sense of financial stability and used the cash payments to cover essential expenses such as rent, groceries, and clothing, to reconnect with family members, and on personal care to prepare themselves for employment. Read More

NEW: RCS Impact Stories


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Each year in the United States, about 600,000 people are released from state and federal prisons, and millions more are released from local jails. These “returning citizens”— face a tough transition to the community. Often with few financial resources, they must address their day-to-day needs of food, clothing, and housing; obtain identification and access to medical care; and endeavor to find employment and reconnect with family.

For those released in 2020 and early 2021, the COVID-19 pandemic made the transition even more difficult. Yet federal emergency relief funds may have done little to help them, since they may not have had access to the funds if they lacked recent work histories or tax returns.

The Returning Citizens Stimulus (RCS) disburses up to $2,750 in cash assistance to individuals recently released from incarceration due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since April 2020, CEO has transferred payments to more than 10,000 people across 28 cities, while focusing on New York City, Los Angeles, Oakland, Detroit, New Orleans, and Tulsa.

RCS is designed to address the overwhelming racial disparities impacting the health and economic mobility of people coming home from prison during the COVID-19 pandemic. With several states and cities accelerating releases from prison systems where Black and Latino Americans are over represented, RCS provides essential resources to individuals that need unprecedented support returning home from incarceration during a contracting job market.

The program leverages CEO’s pay card system, a robust network of local reentry service providers, and a $23+ million investment from the Justice and Mobility Fund, a collaboration launched by The Ford Foundation and Blue Meridian Partners with support from the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation.

RCS transfers three contactless-delivery “stimulus” payments to individuals while also connecting them to essential reentry supports.

Since April 2020, CEO has transferred payments to more than 10,000 people across 28 cities, while focusing on New York City, Los Angeles, Oakland, Detroit, New Orleans, and Tulsa.

"It was a blessing, man. It made me cry, man, I cried. I put $700 for the good. I paid rent and bought groceries. It really helped soooo much. I have grown so much with this (CEO) project. CEO has really motivated me. Thank you."

- Roosevelt, CEO Cleveland Participant

Learn More About RCS:

Elevating Stories - Hear how RCS has helped participants returning home during COVID-19.

Rethinking Systems - Read how CEO is demonstrating the need for autonomous reentry support.

Evaluating Outcomes - Learn how we are measuring RCS impact

RCS Update As of November 2, 2021


Returning Citizens Served

$24.1 M

Total Distributed to Returning Citizens

Thank You RCS Funders

Thank You RCS Partners