The Peter G. Peterson Foundation Pandemic Response Policy Research Fund

Through the support of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, the Schaeffer Center is launching the pandemic policy research fund to support research and engage in policy discussions that will impact our understanding of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and prepare us for future pandemics.

Overview | Important Dates | Contact | Funding Priorities | Application | Awardees

Researching the Impact of the Policy Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic

The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic set off an unprecedented chain of policy responses aimed at mitigating the health and economic impacts of the spread of the infectious virus. Since March 2020, policymakers and public health officials at the local, state and federal levels have grappled with changing and uncertain information, competing priorities and complicated, dynamic scenarios.

 The Schaeffer Center is launching the Peter G. Peterson Foundation Pandemic Response Policy Research Fund to support research that advances our understanding of the short and long-run impact of public policies implemented in response to the pandemic. Researchers from across the University of Southern California will be eligible to apply.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has reinvigorated our commitment to conduct timely, innovative and objective research. USC faculty have been at the forefront of producing new evidence to inform public policy and discourse on the pandemic. I am thankful to the Peter G. Peterson Foundation for providing this opportunity to broaden and elevate this important work”

Neeraj Sood, PhD
Director, COVID Initiative, USC Schaeffer Center
Vice Dean for Research, USC Price School for Public Policy

Application Information

Important Dates

Request for proposals will open May 1, 2022. Proposals will be accepted through August 30, 2022. Interested researchers are encouraged to apply early; proposals will be reviewed on a rolling basis.

Awarded funds will be made available October 1, 2022 for Normal Research Grants. Rapid Research Grants will be awarded and funded on a rolling basis.

Contact Information

Please address questions about the funding opportunity to the project director, Professor Neeraj Sood at Please address questions about the proposal portal to Alexis Goodly at Please address questions about budgets to Cristina Wilson at

Funding Priorities

The Peter G. Peterson Foundation Pandemic Policy Research Fund at the University of Southern California (USC) Schaeffer Center for Health Policy & Economics is pleased to announce a call for proposals. We ask for proposals to fund research on the following topics:

  1.  Research that advances our understanding of the short and long-run impact of public policies to mitigate the health and economic effects of the pandemic on health and economic outcomes at both the individual and economy-wide level.
  2.  Research that advances our understanding of the impact of the pandemic and associated policies on broader economic and social trends such as the adoption of new technologies, changes in where we work, changes in health care and health-related behaviors, changes in savings/consumption decisions and changes in fiscal and monetary policies at the local, state and federal levels.
  3.  Research that improves preparedness for future pandemics.

We welcome research proposals that focus on primary or secondary data analysis as well as research that synthesizes and draws lessons from existing research for policymakers and the broader public.

Who is eligible to apply? 

All USC faculty, post-docs and PhD students are eligible to apply for this opportunity.

What is the size of the funding opportunity? 

The total budget for the fund is $1 million over two years.

Estimated number of awards? 

4-5 Normal Research Grants (NRG) and 4-5 Rapid Research Grants (RRGs).

When are proposals due? 

Proposals for NRGs are due no later than August 30, 2022, at 5:00 p.m. Pacific Time. Proposals for RRGs will be reviewed on a rolling basis and proposals are encouraged starting May 1, 2022.

Application Requirements

Applicants are required to submit a technical proposal, budget, budget justification and biographical sketches.

Technical Proposal Specifications:

Technical proposals for Normal Research Grants (NRGs) and Rapid Research Grants (RRGs) should not exceed 5 pages (excluding references). Each technical proposal should use 12-point font, Times New Roman or Arial, and 1.5 line spacing. The technical proposal should contain the following sections:

  • Cover sheet: Project title, contact information of Principal Investigator and project abstract, which should not exceed 200 words.
  • Specific aims: Provide key research objectives.
  • Significance: Explain how the research will advance knowledge as well as the broader impacts on society and on public policy.
  • Approach: The approach or methods for conducting the research.
  • Project timeline: Proposed project start date, significant intermediate milestones, and duration.
  • References: References should be in APA format. This section does not count towards the page limit for a technical proposal.

Budget and Budget Justification Specifications:

The budget and budget justification should contain separate line items for personnel costs and materials. Please provide a justification for each line item. The indirect cost rate is 15%. A template is provided below.

Budgets for NRGs should not exceed $150,000 and budgets for RRGs should not exceed $50,000. You can view the budget template below.

Budget Notes:
• Proposed period of performance cannot exceed 14 months between 4/1/22 – 4/30/24.
• RPG cannot exceed $50,000 in direct costs • NRG cannot exceed $150,000 in direct costs.
• This is a project funded by the Peterson’s Foundation (non-federally funded).
• 15% is the maximum allowable indirect costs in accordance with the Foundation’s guidelines.

Biographical Sketch Specifications:

Biographical sketches can be provided in either NIH or NSF format.

How to Apply

A link to the application is below. Please address questions about the funding opportunity to the project director, Professor Neeraj Sood at Please address questions about budgets to Cristina Wilson at

2022/2023 Awardees

María Prados, PhD

María Prados is an economist at the Center for Economic and Social Research at the University of Southern California. She received her Ph.D. in Economics from Columbia University, was a Postdoctoral Research Scholar at the Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics and a RCMAR Scholar for the Minority Aging Health Economics Research Center at USC. She is a member of the USC Center for the Changing Family and a lecturer at the USC Economics Department. Dr. Prados specializes in quantitative and applied economics, and her research interests have to do with health, gender, labor economics, and household decisions. Recent research includes the gendered effects of the pandemic on labor market outcomes and mental health of working parents, environmental influences on teenage obesity, the value of treatment for Alzheimer’s Disease, and the long-term effects of high-quality early childhood education. Dr. Prados’ research has been funded by the Michigan Disability and Retirement Research Center, the NIH, the Roybal Center for Health Policy Simulation, and the Roybal Center for Health Decision Making and Financial Independence in Old Age.

Project Abstract

Vulnerable families were hit hard during the COVID-19 pandemic along numerous dimensions, one of which were the challenges brought by the sudden closure of childcare centers around the country. Quality childcare and early education are crucial for children’s positive development, especially for vulnerable children.(Barnett, 1998; Burger, 2010; Conti et al., 2016; Dearing et al., 2009; Garcia et al., 2020; McCartney et al., 2007) Yet, minority and low-income families were overrepresented in areas with high rates of childcare closures.(Lee & Parolin, 2021) These closures and lack of timely reopening, disproportionately impacting low-income families, may have worsen the already unfavorable developmental outcomes for these children. Correctly estimating these effects is crucial to determine policies that address this issue.

This project will measure the impact of pandemic-related formal childcare closures and disruptions on young minority and low-income children’s developmental delays. For this, we will use a unique combination of administrative data on children’s developmental outcomes and families’ characteristics merged at the census tract level with contextual data from several sources. The administrative data comes from an early childhood home visitation program for low-income and vulnerable families The proposed research will highlight the underlying systemic inequalities in childcare and inform policymakers about the impact on these children.

Virat Agrawal, MS

Virat Agrawal is a Ph.D. student in the Public Policy and Management program at USC Price School of Public Policy. His research is focused on Behavioral Health Policy, Self-Monitoring Technology, Preventative Care, and COVID-19 policy. He is currently working with Dr. Neeraj Sood on COVID-19 shelter-in-place policies, mental health benefits and moral hazard effects of COVID-19 vaccines. Prior to joining the doctoral program, he worked in medical devices. He pursued a Bachelor’s in Biomedical Engineering from VIT University, India, and a Master’s in the same from USC Viterbi School of Engineering.

Project Abstract

A long-standing economic question is how insurance against harm leads to potentially offsetting behavior change. Immunization is a type of insurance, as it protects individuals from the full cost of vaccine preventable diseases. Although the moral hazard effects of traditional insurance are well understood, there is little or no research on the moral hazard effects of vaccines, and in particular, the moral hazard effects of COVID-19 vaccines, one of the largest vaccination campaigns in history. The goal of this study is to empirically evaluate the moral hazard effects of COVID-19 vaccines by estimating how the receipt of COVID-19 vaccine influences behaviors that reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19, such as wearing masks, washing hands, and avoiding public places. The findings of the study could have important implications for public policy. For example, finding a substantial moral hazard effect of COVID-19 vaccines would argue for continued investments in risk mitigation interventions (e.g., social distancing) concurrent with a public vaccination campaign. Substantial moral hazard effects would also mean that clinical trials overestimate the “real-world” efficacy of vaccines. Participants in clinical trials likely exhibit less moral hazard, given that participants do not have evidence on the effectiveness of the vaccine and are also blinded as to whether they received the experimental vaccine or placebo. A key challenge in estimating the effects of receipt of vaccines on risk mitigation behavior is that the decision to get vaccinated is endogenous and likely related to underlying risk preferences, and therefore, I propose two estimation approach in this study using the Understanding America Study (UAS) survey data, a nationally representative cohort with about 9,500 adult participants. First, a regression discontinuity design (RDD) to exploit the discontinuity in vaccination rates at age 65, and compare vaccination rates and risk mitigation behavior between those above and below age 65. Second, I propose to use an instrumental variable approach that exploits the variation in eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccines by state, age, and time.