The Salt Lake County Council is meeting tonight to finalize steps in the Pay for Success program. It’s part of Mayor Ben McAdams’ effort to reduce homelessness and deal with criminal justice issues in the county.
The $11.5 million program is a novel approach from Mayor McAdams. In these final steps of the negotiations, the program would split the money between two Salt Lake nonprofits: First Step House, which will tackle criminal justice and The Road Home, addressing homelessness.
The novelty is in how the program is funded.
"We can invest in those programs and those social programs that will have a good impact in our community, and we can do it in a way that isn’t just throwing tax dollars at program after program for which there is no established outcome," McAdams says.
In the county plan, funding for housing programs, employment services, mental health and substance abuse programs will be loaned by a handful of philanthropies, banks and foundations. Those funds will be paid out to the two nonprofits over a five year period.
Money from social programs that prove to be successful will be reimbursed to investors with taxpayer dollars.
"We’re allowing some of the innovation and the risk to be borne by the private sector. I think the private sector is much better at bearing risk and being innovative," McAdams says.
Over those five years, the nonprofits’ success will be rigorously studied to make sure the programs, and the investments that funded them, are successfully managed.
After the public comment period, the next step is for the county to finalize negotiations with investors. After that McAdams hopes to get the programs up and running in the coming weeks.