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Lessons from Immigrant Families Left out of Federal Relief

RAPID RESPONSE INSIGHTS SERIES

Lessons from Immigrant Families Left out of Federal Relief

Almost overnight, the COVID-19 pandemic decimated the financial lives of immigrant families. Through no fault of their own, millions of immigrants lost jobs and income they relied on to support their families, forcing them to deplete what little savings they had or extend credit just to survive. In their time of greatest need, Congress excluded more than 11 million immigrants and their families from emergency stimulus checks and a desperately-needed financial lifeline.

In an effort to help those left behind, MAF launched the Immigrant Families Fund (IFF) to provide unrestricted cash grants to people excluded from federal relief. Since launching the IFF in April 2020, MAF has received over 200,000 applications for support. Overwhelmed with requests for help, we designed a financial equity framework to determine who could benefit the most from a one-time grant, prioritizing applicants with the fewest income sources and most financial strains. By placing financial equity front and center, MAF has provided 55,000 grants to families with the greatest need.

In October 2020, MAF conducted a survey to learn how the pandemic and economic crisis impacted those left behind, collecting detailed information from 11,677 grant recipients. Now, drawing on what is the largest national survey of immigrants left out of federal relief, we report on the deep financial pain immigrants are facing, the strategies they are using to weather the crisis, and the cost of exclusion from a safety net that continues to leave people behind.

11.5M

immigrant & family members excluded

55,000

grants to immigrants

11,677

survey responses

“As an undocumented person who has filed my taxes for twelve years, it has been hard to have to accept that in times when we struggle, we are unable to receive anything back.” –Juan

Immigrant Families Fund Insights

The Financial Devastation of Immigrant Families

While Congress extended a financial lifeline to struggling families through three rounds of stimulus checks, over 11 million immigrants and their families were excluded from desperately-needed support. In this insights brief, we see the deep financial pain immigrants are facing and the cost of exclusion from a safety net that was not designed for everyone.

DOWNLOAD INSIGHTS BRIEF #1

  • THE FINANCIAL DEVASTATION OF IMMIGRANT FAMILIES1

  • THE FINANCIAL DEVASTATION OF IMMIGRANT FAMILIES2

  • THE FINANCIAL DEVASTATION OF IMMIGRANT FAMILIES3

Policies Matter: California v Texas

While California enacted housing and utilities moratoriums to help people facing financial hardship due to COVID-19, Texas failed to enact similar state level pandemic supports. In this brief, we see how consumer protections helped families avoid a steeper downward financial spiral, while conservative state policies have left households vulnerable to greater financial fallout.

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  • Eviction Moratoriums Helped Immigrants Stay in Homes

  • State Utility Moratoriums Averted Shutoffs

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COVID-19’s Lasting Impact on Immigrant Families

Facing income loss and left out of federal pandemic relief, immigrant families had to resort to emergency financial strategies to survive another day. In this brief, we shine a light on how the financial fallout from COVID-19 will have a long-lasting impact on immigrant families who’ve had to dig into their wealth building strategies to make ends meet.

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Essential But Invisible and Excluded

Two years into the pandemic, we hear stories about a recovery where most Americans are coming out financially stronger than before. Missing from these narratives are the experiences of the millions of immigrant families who were excluded from relief, many whom showed up for essential roles, but were treated as invisible. How did immigrant families survive the pandemic? How can we help them rebuild their financial lives?

DOWNLOAD INSIGHTS REPORT

  • Immigrant Families Disproportionately Hit by COVID-191

  • Immigrant Families Disproportionately Hit by COVID-192

  • COVID-19 in Household Worsened Financial Hardship1

  • COVID-19 in Household Worsened Financial Hardship2

  • COVID-19 in Household Worsened Financial Hardship3

  • Immigrant Families Depleted Resources for the Future

“I am behind on rent and bills. I am a single mother raising three children. This grant is important to me because I am going to have a form of relief knowing that I have some money to buy my children food and that with little money I can start paying the bills I owe.” – Delsis

Community Spotlights

San Mateo County Immigrant Relief Fund

By offering equity-centered relief, MAF ultimately reached 1 in 2 undocumented immigrant families in San Mateo County, funding more than 16,000 grants. In this brief, we see the deep financial devastation of the pandemic on the lives of immigrant families in San Mateo𑁋a devastation that threatens to make rebuilding financial lives a steep uphill road to recovery.

DOWNLOAD SAN MATEO BRIEF

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  • San Mateo Families With COVID-19 Got Hit Harder1

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Immigrant Families in San Francisco

For some immigrants who lost their stable jobs during COVID-19, gig work offered a window of opportunity to navigate the financial upheaval. MAF’s post grant survey captures how COVID-19 transformed the job market for immigrant families in San Francisco𑁋and how the shift to gig work fell short in helping families meet their basic needs.

DOWNLOAD SAN FRANCISCO BRIEF

  • Immigrants in San Francisco Turned to Gig Work

  • Gig Workers Experienced More Food Insecurity

  • Families Who Transitioned to Gig Work Faced Higher Costs1

  • Families Who Transitioned to Gig Work Faced Higher Costs2

  • Families Who Transitioned to Gig Work Faced Higher Costs3

“I have never been late or owed anyone anything so being in this situation makes me feel as if somebody else is controlling the outcome of my life.” –Jasmin

Explore More

Watch our Webinar: Excluded & Invisible

In the midst of a pandemic, millions of essential workers were excluded from federal relief. While media outlets report on the silver linings of COVID-19, we hear a different story from the families left behind.

WATCH RECORDING

Read Francisco’s Story: Strength During COVID-19

Francisco has always hustled and made sacrifices to keep his family safe and financially stable. But when the shelter-in-place order was instituted, his world turned upside down.

Read more

Learn about our partnerships

A community is at its best when neighbors show up in meaningful ways with trust and respect for one another. Learn about the power of collective action in practice.

Read more

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Rapid Response Insights Series: COVID-19’s Impact on CA College Students

RAPID RESPONSE INSIGHTS SERIES

COVID-19’s Impact on CA Public College Students

In a matter of days, the COVID-19 pandemic upended the lives of millions. As colleges and universities closed campuses, students were suddenly faced with a precarious future: many found themselves out of work and stable housing, facing unexpected costs, and often without the technology or supplies to continue working toward their degree.

In partnership with the College Futures Foundation, we made a decision to step up and give California’s low-income college students what they needed most: direct cash assistance. Between April and June, the CA College Student Emergency Support Fund provided direct cash assistance to more than 6,000 low-income college students in California’s public higher education system. The Fund distributed relief with an equity lens, prioritizing students without income or access to relief, and with children relying on them. In July, MAF followed up with grant recipients to understand how the crisis was impacting students’ lives. Over two weeks, 3,193 students responded to the post-grant survey, sharing how they were making ends meet and how MAF’s grant had impacted their academic and financial journey.

In this Rapid Response Insights Series, we pull back the curtain on the financial lives of college students. We explore how, across thousands of students, financial strategies and resources are interwoven with family responsibilities. When we look ahead, our response needs to be guided by one fundamental understanding: if we truly want to help people reach their goals, we have to focus on what’s foundational—financial security. We invite you to step into the financial lives of CA’s low-income public college students and explore the full insights series.

Shareable Insights

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  • Financial Aid Fails Community College Students1

  • Financial Aid Fails Community College Students2

  • Financial Aid Fails Community College Students3

  • Community College Students Most At Risk Of Payday Loans

  • Students with Dependents More Likely To Work1

  • Students with Dependents More Likely To Work2

  • Students with Dependents More Likely To Work3

Webinar: Ensuring College Student Success Through Equity-Centered Relief

WATCH RECORDING

Insights #1: COVID-19’s Impact on CA College Students

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Insights #2: College Students’ Financial Lives Differ Across CA’s Higher Ed Systems

DOWNLOAD INSIGHTS BRIEF #2

Insights Report: Targeted Cash Grants Effectively Support Students’ College Success

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Support for this research was provided by the College Futures Foundation.

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Energy Watch Chronicles: How A Small Business Owner Sweetened His Customers’ Experience By Brightening Up His Shop

Whether you’re a San Francisco Bay Area native, or have only visited the city a handful of times, you may have explored the famed “North Beach/Little Italy” neighborhood and crossed paths with the candy shop Z. Cioccolato (cioccolato is the italian word for “chocolate”). The storefront is hard to miss with its bright, playful, showcase window and a personality to match. The intoxicating smell of freshly popped caramel corn fills the sidewalk, compelling passersby to come inside and take a look around. 

Upon entering, you find yourself overwhelmed by bountiful barrels piled high with vibrant saltwater taffy, nostalgic vintage candies, charming childhood toys, and so much more. But there’s one holy grail that makes this candy shop so different than any other– here at Z. Cioccolato, it’s all about the fudge. Each customer that walks through the door is encouraged to try one of 60 unique, regularly rotated flavors.

Each detail of the sensational Z. Cioccolato experience is carefully preserved by the current and sole owner, Mike Zwiefelhofer, who has been on a mission to enhance the retail space by creating an unforgettable customer experience.

Mike comes from a long lineage of business owners.

For Mike, the ability to run a business runs in his blood. Mike’s great grandparents owned a small department store chain in Northern California for over 100 years and he has since followed in their footsteps: he began his first job as a box boy at the age of 14, worked his way up to a frozen yogurt shop owner, and worked in furniture sales before he arrived at the opportunity to purchase Z.Cioccolato.

“There were two major things that attracted me to this shop: One is the location, it’s an amazing location… But the main thing that attracted me to this business is the fudge…Without the fudge, we are just a normal candy shop, but with the fudge, we have something award winning, unique, and different. That is our signature.”

When Mike bought the store from the now-retired owners four years ago, he was excited to put his culmination of experience to the test:

“I did not know much about chocolate, but I did know about desserts from my frozen yogurt shop and I definitely know a lot about retail. So, the chocolate portion I was able to learn over the last 4 years…All of my experience is put to use here at the shop.”

As sole owner of Z.Cioccolato, Mike wears all the different hats in the shop. He has a sales staff to work the front and a chocolatier to work the kitchen, but every job in-between is his daily responsibility. When asked to describe a day in the life of a small business owner, Mike thought about how to answer for a brief moment and articulated:

“It’s a hard question. There are too many things I do…”

Life as the sole owner of a small business comes with its challenges; it can be exhausting and overwhelming at times. As a testament to Mike’s perseverance, in his first two years of learning the ins-and-outs of Z.Cioccolato, he maintained his second job as a furniture salesman to pay his personal bills and remain financially stable. That era was full of long hour days, back-to-back. Despite the odds, four years later, Mike focuses on building a future for his business.

As a small business owner, Mike has to carefully manage his business expenses.

During our conversation, Mike talked about the harsh reality that small businesses typically don’t make that much money. The high cost of running the shop makes it difficult to raise profits. Mike is constantly searching for areas where he can save money, but those opportunities are sparse when it takes a minimum amount of resources to simply run the shop. 

One day as Mike was operating Z.Cioccolato, he received a call from Mission Asset Fund (MAF) introducing the Energy Watch Loan Program. The Energy Watch Loan Program provides small businesses zero-interest, credit building loans up to $2,500 to finance energy efficiency upgrades. Business owners have the opportunity to save energy and money on their utility bill, while at the same time reducing their impact on the environment. The Energy Watch Loan Program is a collaborative initiative between MAF and the San Francisco Department of the Environment.

In a space where sales calls are frequent and in high volume, Mike was protective at first glance and filed away the information as being “too good to be true.” One year later, however, he was reintroduced to the program:

“I happened to meet the contractor who did the lights. He lives nearby and stopped into the store and he brought up the program. Now this is the second time I had heard of it, and I was able to ask him a lot of questions. He gave me an estimate of how much he thought I would save on my PG&E bill, and that’s what really made me say: ‘Well, it’s a no brainer.’

Mike utilized the Energy Watch Program to brighten up his shop (with a few added benefits).

Mike proceeded to get two different lighting upgrades over the following year, totalling around $3,000. Rebates and incentives from the Energy Watch Program enabled him to lower the cost to around $1,680 with a monthly loan payment of about $100 to be completely paid off in the next year. Right off the bat, the gains were noticeable: monthly savings on his PG&E bill added up to about $100, matching the monthly payments and totalling a value of $1,200 a year.

For a small business owner, a $3,000 out of pocket cost may be a high hurdle. As Mike pointed out, saving energy and “being green” is a privilege to some extent. If a business is not especially profitable, an energy efficiency project with upfront costs may become less of a priority. The Energy Watch Program removes this hurdle with affordable, flexible loan products. According to Mike:

“It allows you to do a project that otherwise wouldn’t get done…As a business owner, there are very few times where there’s something with no risk and no downside. It’s interest free money, it helps your business, it saves on your monthly PG&E bill.”

Mike’s energy efficiency upgrade had a bigger impact than just monthly savings.

Mike described that prior to the upgrades, the majority of his lights were burnt out, broken, and slightly different colors which gave the store a “run down” and inconsistent look. A business with this kind of lighting may appear on its way to closing down. Mike described the lighting upgrade as analogous to his ever-flowing candy bins:

“It’s the same thing with my candy bins, I don’t like them to get empty looking because it makes you look like you’re going out of business…”

Since the upgrades, every corner of the store is illuminated and appears the same, consistent, color. Although it’s a fine detail, the customer is positively impacted by it.

Mike is satisfied with his energy improvements and ties the project’s motive back to his commitment to creating a comfortable environment for his customers.

Throughout our conversation, Mike circles back to his loyalty to his customers and dedication to providing them with a unique product for their enjoyment. The shop’s signature seven layered Peanut Butter Pie fudge exemplifies this uniqueness. From what Mike and his staff can tell, Z. Cioccolato is the only candy shop in the world that makes a seven layered fudge.

Mike believes that part of Z. Cioccolato’s future is making the in-store retail experience something so unique and unforgettable that customers prefer to shop in-person rather than online. Over the past year, the lighting upgrades have helped to preserve and further cultivate the look and feel of Z. Cioccolato’s customer-centered, indoor atmosphere.

Mike has a deep passion for his work at Z. Cioccolato and will continue to advocate for the enhancement of all retail experiences to save small businesses the burden of competing with corporate giants. And as his customers, we have the sweet privilege of experiencing all the indulgence they have to offer. If you haven’t already, plan your next trip to make a candy shop stop at Z. Cioccolato on: 

474 Columbus Ave
San Francisco, CA 94133.

Waiting on SCOTUS, UCLA Looks to Lending Circles for Deferred Action


MAF’s collaboration with UCLA’s Undocumented Student Center will bring Lending Circles for Deferred Action to more Los Angeles communities.

A current Supreme Court case could lead to skyrocketing interest in one of our signature programs, Lending Circles for Deferred Action.

In 2014 , President Obama announced an executive action to expand the “Deferred Action” program to grant “dreamer” youth and their parents a type of temporary permission to stay in the U.S. Although this policy has been blocked in the case United States v. Texas, a favorable Supreme Court decision expected in June of this year could make 5 million people eligible for DACA and DAPA.

For the many eligible UCLA students, affordability is a major issue.

Studies have shown that 43% of those eligible for DACA choose not to apply because of the high application fee. So when Valeria Garcia, Program Director for the Undocumented Student Program at UCLA, learned about the Lending Circles for Deferred Action program, she thought it would be a great way for UCLA students to finance their DACA applications. UCLA’s Undocumented Student Program provides a welcoming and safe space to help students navigate UCLA by offering mentorship, programs and workshops tailored to their unique needs.

Now, for the first time, UCLA students have the opportunity to join the Lending Circles program.

This partnership will enable UCLA students to pay for the $465 application fee with a zero-interest loan, and build their credit histories at the same time. Young, college-age
d youth historically have low credit scores. In a study conducted by Experian, millennials’ average credit score was over 50 points lower than the average credit score in the U.S. and close to 100 points lower than that of baby boomers.

With a growing network of Lending Circle providers, getting signed up with the program will be easy for UCLA students. Los Angeles partner providers (including including Building Skills Partnership (Los Angeles), Pilipino Workers Center of Southern CaliforniaMexican American Opportunity Foundation (MAOF) and Korean Resource Center (KRC)) have already helped participants loan and borrow nearly $10,000 in Lending Circles loans.

UCLA students can now feel empowered to take action, to build their credit, develop sound savings habits and put money aside toward specific goals, by working with these existing partners offering the program in their own backyards.

With immigration reform on the horizon, new opportunities for collaborations like this one can help remove the financial barriers many aspiring citizens face. In January of this year, MAF launched the Build a Better LA campaign for exactly this reason. This past April, we welcomed three new partner providers through this campaign: East LA Community Corporation, Koreatown Youth + Community Center, and LIFT-LA. Together, with local partner providers and organizations like UCLA’s Undocumented Students Program, we hope to reach more hardworking families in need of an affordable financial product – and a path out of the financial shadows.

Curious to learn more about Lending Circles for Deferred Action? Check out LendingCircles.org for more information.

Celebrating the Many Moms of Our Community


This Mother’s Day, we’re celebrating all the “MAF Moms” working hard to create better lives for their families through Lending Circles.

This Sunday is a day dedicated to the strong, wise, generous, and caring mothers in our lives. In the spirit of Mother’s Day, we’re celebrating a few MAF clients who are working hard to build bright financial futures for their families.

Three Generations of Chefs

For Guadalupe, cooking authentic Mexican cuisine has always been a family affair. As a girl, she and her mother made the tastiest tortillas from scratch, and now she and her daughters do the same. She used her Lending Circles loan to buy equipment and help pay for a van to expand her catering business, El Pipila — which she runs with her daughter to support their family.

When we last shared Guadalupe’s story in 2014, she dreamed of opening a small, brick-and-mortar food stand. Now, she’s a food vendor at The Hall in San Francisco and a food truck regular at Bay Area festivals. Guadalupe’s family is key to her success. “I am doing this for my daughters. I want to make sure that neither of them has to work for anyone but themselves”.

A Mom on a Mission

Helen, a single mom from Guatemala, came to MAF with a simple dream: to have a safe home for her children. Because she couldn’t afford the hefty security deposit and didn’t have a credit score, she had no choice but to rent rooms in shared apartments — including one with families living in hallways.

After joining a Lending Circle, Helen saved up enough for a security deposit and built her credit score. Now, she has her own three-bedroom apartment for her daughters, and even bigger dreams.

Whipping Up Cupcakes with Her Son’s Support

Elvia’s son ignited her passion for baking with a simple question: “Mom, what do you love to do most?” After building a reputation for having the best desserts at parties, her family and friends encouraged Elvia to start a bakery.

She used a $5,000 loan from MAF to invest in a fridge, business license, and a number of necessities to grow her bakery, La Luna Cupcakes. She now has a cupcake shop in Crocker Galleria in San Francisco, and her children continue to be her North Star. “I always taught them if you want something, you can do it! Believe in your dream!”

Thanks to Lesley Marling, MAF’s newest Partner Success Manager, for her contributions to this post.

Law School & Tamales: DACA Opens Doors for Kimberly


With the help of Lending Circles for DACA, Kimberly is finishing her degree and prepping her law school applications — all while helping her mom and sister grow their family tamale business.

It’s hard to miss Ynes’s tamale stand.

On weekday mornings in a quiet Oakland neighborhood, you’ll find all the energy of a street market packed into one small food cart. “I was about to get breakfast across the street, then I saw you all!” shouted one of Ynes’s regulars as she approached the cart.

For years Ynes and her daughters, Kimberly and Maria, have been coming to the same spot to serve up authentic Mexican tamales. Ynes and her husband moved to Oakland from Cabo San Lucas 20 years ago to create a new life, with more opportunities for their young daughters.

From an early age, Kimberly was determined to make the most of these opportunities.

Kimberly is one of the many thousands of young people who have used Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) to attend college and secure jobs. And she’s one of the hundreds who have used Lending Circles for DREAMers to fund their DACA applications.

But before DACA, many doors were closed to her.

As a child, Kimberly worked hard in school and ultimately graduated with the grades she needed to go to a 4-year university. But because she wasn’t born in the US, she didn’t qualify for financial aid or even in-state tuition. Instead, she enrolled in a local community college that she could afford to pay out-of-pocket.

One evening, Kimberly saw a segment on Univision that would change everything: a profile of a local nonprofit that provides social loans to help immigrants build credit and apply for DACA. Hoping this could be the key to her dream school, she came to our office to learn more.

Two years ago, Kimberly joined her first Lending Circle.

Right off the bat, she found MAF’s financial management training extremely helpful. “In school they teach you how to do math problems and write papers, but they don’t teach you about credit,” she said. Next, with her Lending Circles loan and a $232.50 match from the SF Mexican Consulate, she applied for DACA and was soon approved.

Her new status lifted the barriers that had been holding her back from her dreams.

Kimberly could finally access the financial aid she needed to transfer to San Francisco State University. She was hired for two part-time jobs. And with better credit, she secured a loan to buy new equipment for her family’s business: tables, chairs, and canopies so their customers to sit and socialize.

Today, Kimberly is finishing her degree in political science at SFSU — and her second Lending Circle.

She’s giving back to her community by volunteering at the East Bay Sanctuary Covenant, an organization that supports refugees and immigrants in the Bay Area. She’s also studying for the LSAT and preparing her law school applications, working toward a career in immigration and family law.

And all the while, she’s helping her mom grow their family’s food cart business.

Kimberly and her sister Maria are still by their mother’s side, serving tamales to an ever-growing clientele. What’s next for the family business? With an improved credit history, they’re seeking a larger loan to expand their operations with a second food cart. Ultimately, Ynes dreams of opening a restaurant to bring her delicious tamales to even more eager, hungry customers.

Lending Circles Coming to More Los Angeles Communities


MAF is inviting Los Angeles nonprofit organizations to apply to become Lending Circles social loan providers.

Mission Asset Fund (MAF) today announces the Build a Better Los Angeles initiative to expand Lending Circles in Los Angeles. Dynamic nonprofit organizations are invited to to apply to join MAF’s national network of 50+ Lending Circles providers through a special application process. This initiative is sponsored by JPMorgan Chase & Co. and the Roy & Patricia Disney Family Foundation.

MAF’s award-winning Lending Circles are a fresh take on social lending, helping participants safely build credit while increasing assets and improving financial health. The average credit score increase for participants is 168 points.

“We are proud to partner with MAF to help more Los Angeles households improve their financial health,” said Colleen Briggs, Executive Director of Financial Capability, JPMorgan Chase. “Lending Circles help families achieve their financial goals through regular savings and affordable credit building. Families are using lending circles to start businesses, save for college, and buy a home. The benefits do not stop with them but extend to their communities and the broader economy.”

According to a recent report from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, 45 million adults in the U.S. are invisible to credit markets, making them unable to access affordable credit. Los Angeles has one of the highest unbanked rates in California at 17%, compared to 8% for the state overall. “Without credit scores, people must turn to payday lenders to start a business or get a small-dollar loan,” said Jose A. Quinonez, CEO of MAF. “Lending Circles give people the tools to build credit and enter the financial mainstream.”

“The Roy & Patricia Disney Family Foundation is proud to support Mission Asset Fund’s efforts to build vibrant, economically secure communities in the Los Angeles area through its innovative Lending Circles program. It’s with great pleasure that we support the Build a Better L.A. campaign, which will connect even more low-income Californians with pathways to the financial mainstream,” said Sylia Obagi, Executive Director.

To learn more about the Build a Better Los Angeles initiative or apply to become a Lending Circles provider today, please visit the Request for Proposals here. Selected organizations can gain access to subsidized training costs, training from MAF staff, and on-demand access to an exclusive social loan platform. Applications are due March 18th and new providers will be announced on April 29th. Applicants must be 501c(3) organizations located in the greater Los Angeles area including Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties.

Interested organizations are encouraged to register for an in-person information session on February 26th at 10:30am at the ImpactHub LA to learn more. Register today to reserve your spot.

Join Us for an Info Session
Date: February 26th
Time: 10:30 am
Location: ImpactHub LA

About Mission Asset Fund

Mission Asset Fund (MAF) is a San Francisco-based nonprofit dedicated to helping financially excluded communities – namely, low-income and immigrant families – gain access to mainstream financial services. Learn more at missionassetfund.org and lendingcircles.org.

Southwest Solutions & JPMorgan Bring Lending Circles to Detroit


Southwest Solutions, JPMorgan Chase & MAF launch peer Lending Circles to boost credit scores of Detroit residents.

Southwest Solutions, JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Mission Asset Fund (MAF) today announced the launch of Lending Circles, a new social loan program that will allow Detroit residents to safely build credit through zero-interest loans. Participants make monthly loan payments and take turns receiving zero-interest social loans, ranging from $300 to $2,500. All loan payments are reported to credit bureaus, enabling participants to build a credit history, raise credit scores and work towards greater financial stability.

MAF’s award-winning Lending Circles are a fresh take on social lending, helping participants build credit while increasing assets and improving financial health. The average credit score increase for participants is 168 points. “More than 30% of the people we’ve assisted with their financial situation in the last two years start with no credit history, and those with credit start with an average credit score of only 547,” said Hector Hernandez, executive director of Southwest Economic Solutions. “Lending Circles will enable our clients to build and enhance their credit so they can take advantage of opportunities to become homeowners, entrepreneurs and college graduates.”

Bringing Lending Circles to Detroit is the next step in JPMorgan Chase’s $ 100 million commitment to Detroit’s economic recovery. JPMorgan Chase recently awarded MAF a $1.5 million, three-year grant to expand Lending Circles to even more communities across the country and develop new technology to connect clients with on-demand loan information. Southwest Solutions is part of a growing network of 53 Lending Circles providers – and the first in the state of Michigan.

“We are proud to partner with Southwest Solutions and Mission Asset Fund to expand Lending Circles to Detroit,” said Colleen Briggs, Program Officer, Financial Capability Initiatives, JPMorgan Chase. “Building a solid credit score is the critical first step to managing daily financial lives and accessing affordable capital to achieve long-term financial goals, such as purchasing a home or starting a business.”

Of the 27 zip codes in the City of Detroit, the median credit score among residents is below 600 in all but one, according to Urban Institute tabulations of credit bureau data. Furthermore, a 2015 report from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau reported that one in four Detroit households are “underbanked.” Without sufficient access to checking or savings accounts, Detroit residents often turn to payday lenders and check cashers to meet their basic financial needs.

“Without credit scores, there are no ‘good options’ when you want to start a business or get a small loan,” said Jose A. Quinonez, CEO, MAF. “Now, with the support of JPMorgan Chase and partners like Southwest Solutions, we are working together to provide innovative solutions to help Detroit residents succeed.”


About Southwest Solutions

For more than 40 years, Southwest Solutions has pursued its mission to help build a stronger and healthier community in southwest Detroit and beyond. The nonprofit organization provides more 50 programs and partnerships in the areas of human development, economic development and resident engagement. These three areas together form a comprehensive neighborhood revitalization effort that helps more than 20,000 a year. For more information, please visit www.swsol.org.


About JPMorgan Chase & Co.

JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE: JPM) is a leading global financial services firm with assets of $2.4 trillion and operations worldwide. The Firm is a leader in investment banking, financial services for consumers and small businesses, commercial banking, financial transaction processing, and asset management. A component of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, JPMorgan Chase & Co. serves millions of consumers in the United States and many of the world’s most prominent corporate, institutional and government clients under its J.P. Morgan and Chase brands. The firm uses its global resources, expertise, insights and scale to address some of the most urgent challenges facing communities around the world including the need for increased economic opportunity. Information about JPMorgan Chase & Co. is available at www.jpmorganchase.com.

About Mission Asset Fund

Mission Asset Fund (MAF) is a San Francisco-based nonprofit dedicated to helping financially excluded communities – namely, low-income and immigrant families – gain access to mainstream financial services. Learn more at missionassetfund.org and lendingcircles.org.

Sandra: An Artist-Entrepreneur Brings Her Vision to Life


Sandra’s journey — and her dreams — represent the strength of the Mission community.

Sandra’s creative style is all her own, but her story speaks for an entire community. She’s one of the visionary artists and entrepreneurs San Francisco’s Mission District has cultivated for generations. With Friscolitas, her mobile screen printing business, she has turned her craft into a career. And with the help of MAF’s Lending Circles for Business, she has built the foundation she needs to take Friscolitas to the next level.

But it all started back in her hometown of Zacatecas, Mexico.

The Journey

Sandra was just 12 years old when her mother, a single parent in Zacatecas, made the courageous decision to move to San Francisco, driven by the promise of a better life. Coming from Mexico to the Mission was a tough transition for mother and daughter alike, but they never regretted their choice. Thanks to her mother’s support, Sandra thrived in her new home.

Dreaming Big

Sandra has always had a desire to change the world in a big way. With a work ethic that matched her ambitions, she earned 3 degrees from San Francisco State University. After graduation Sandra began a career as a social worker, but her inquisitive mind was always looking for new areas to explore. She witnessed the changing demographics of her neighborhood and took note of the forces reshaping her community. She knew she wanted to keep the Mission’s unique flavor alive and contribute something of her own to its culture.

Friscolitas: Mission Raised

Her interest in screen printing began with a brainstorming session — not about potential business opportunities, but about ideas for inexpensive gifts she could give her family. In the winter of 2011, Sandra approached friends in her network who could help bring to life the designs that, until then, existed only in her imagination. The result: beautiful t-shirts emblazoned with Sandra’s distinctive take on Dia de los Muertos “Calacas” (skulls), grinning with Mission pride.

What started as a do-it-yourself gift idea has since become an business venture for this entrepreneur. Now she brings her t-shirts to the community at local art galleries,
restaurants, concerts, and festivals. Friscolitas has a growing clientele, attracted by its unique artistic style and its authentic Mission roots. Despite this increasing demand, Sandra hit a roadblock. She struggled to secure an affordable business loan because of a low credit score.

That’s when she found MAF.

Through our Lending Circles for Business program, Sandra pushed her credit score above 800, boosting her confidence and giving her access to business loans with much better terms. Her zero-interest social loan is funding a Friscolitas website so Sandra can finally showcase her work online and reach audiences far beyond her neighborhood.

Customers leave Friscolitas with more than just a t-shirt. As Sandra puts it, they “carry around her art,” heading back into the world with an expression of their shared identity. And there’s no better symbol of the power of the Mission’s culture and the bonds of its community.

Introducing Chris, MAF’s Product Manager


Chris is on a mission to put data and technology in the service of social change.

As you may have noticed over the years, we’ve had great luck with Residency in Social Enterprise (RISE) fellows from New Sector Alliance. Today, we’re continuing that streak:

We’re excited to bring on Chris Ferrer, a former RISE fellow who’s now serving as MAF’s Product Manager.

Chris recently completed his fellowship at the Center for Care Innovations (CCI), where he created dashboards and complex reports in Salesforce to help identify key performance indicators and translate those findings into their first-ever annual report. Now, Chris is bringing those analytical skills to MAF.

He has quickly become our resident Salesforce guru.

In his work at CCI, Chris loved finding ways to leverage data to impact social change. He was naturally drawn to this role at MAF, which gives him the opportunity to apply
his expertise and improve our Salesforce platform — as well as the new challenge of developing a mobile app to better serve our clients.

Chris was particularly impressed by the “multifaceted approach that MAF takes through direct service,” which allows us to help low-income individuals build credit. He also appreciates MAF’s efforts to critically evaluate our services and measure their success, always searching for new opportunities to improve them.

“I think that this is an ideal and effective model to holistically effect change.”

Chris grew up in Maui before attending Claremont McKenna College, where he majored in Philosophy and Literature. One of the highlights of his college years was studying abroad in Paris. Despite growing up in Maui, he admits to being a terrible surfer — but“could give you some tips on falling.”

Chris is a huge soccer fan and loves watching the British club Chelsea. He enjoys listening to new music and likes to cook new foods. When I asked him if he wanted to share any other fun facts, he said “I love cheese!”