Promoting Opportunity Demonstration: Trends in Treatment Group Outcomes and the COVID-19 Pandemic
Social Security Administration
- The POD treatment group experienced a sudden decrease in earnings in April 2020 near the start of the pandemic.
- The percentage of treatment group members with any reported earnings remained steady following an initial decline but remained below the pre-pandemic level. Despite this decline, most of those who were employed just before the pandemic continued to work.
- The proportion of treatment group members with more substantive earnings did not change, underscoring that those with higher earnings were more likely to stay connected to the labor market.
- The pandemic created strong health concerns around work for treatment group members, with some working from home and others staying at work because they were essential workers.
The COVID-19 pandemic created a public health emergency that disrupted program services for people receiving disability benefits. When the pandemic began the Social Security Administration (SSA) was conducting the Promoting Opportunity Demonstration (POD), which tests modifications to program rules.
POD was a randomized controlled trial that randomly assigned volunteer participants to treatment or control groups. Treatment group members had access to new program rules that allowed for a benefit offset for earnings ($1 for $2 benefit offset) based on a monthly earnings and other earnings-related program rule modifications. Control group members continued receiving benefits under current rules that did not have an offset. The pandemic and related restrictions created challenges for participants in the treatment and control groups.
This brief summarizes the implementation experiences and outcome trends of POD treatment group members during the first year of the pandemic. We examined changes in the reported monthly earnings of treatment group members. We also examined trends in benefit offset use and deaths among treatment group members. For all outcomes, we tracked trends from the start of the pandemic in April 2020 through December 2020.