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Welcoming the Education & Leadership Foundation to MAF’s Lending Circles Partner Network

At MAF, we are always on the lookout for partners who share our vision of a more equitable world for immigrant families. Today, we are thrilled to introduce our latest addition to the MAF partner network – the Education & Leadership Foundation (ELF).

Based in Fresno, California, ELF is dedicated to empowering underrepresented communities through a range of essential services, including immigration support, equitable education opportunities, and social justice initiatives. What makes this partnership particularly special is the personal connection that brought our organizations together. It all started when ELF’s Executive Director, Matías Bernal, first learned about MAF’s services in 2016 as a DACA recipient himself. Over the years, Matías has stayed connected with our organization and referred clients to MAF. Then, in the fall of 2022, Matías reached out to explore what a formal partnership and bringing Lending Circles in-house to ELF could look like.

ELF’s journey began 16 years ago, focusing on supporting undocumented students at Fresno State University through educational programs. Since then, they have expanded their reach and evolved into a Department of Justice (DOJ) accredited immigration services provider. ELF provides the community with education, civic engagement, and immigration services, as well as professional development seminars, leadership development, professional development internships, scholarships, and volunteer opportunities. ELF also initiates special projects like utility assistance and financial education workshops in response to community needs. Many of their clients are Spanish-speaking, English learners, or first-generation immigrants. Around 80% of the families they assist began their financial journeys with an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN), and approximately one in five of their clients either lack a bank account or have a deep-seated distrust of traditional financial services.

MAF’s Lending Circles program fulfills a crucial need for ELF’s clients, offering access to credit and capital when traditional loans and banking services are often out of reach or denied to the communities they serve.

At MAF, we believe that Lending Circles are a powerful tool for diverse communities across the United States. Our partnership with ELF is a testament to this belief, and we are excited about the positive impact we can create together in the years to come. We look forward to witnessing how Lending Circles will play a transformative role in ELF’s community, providing access to credit and financial education that can pave the way for brighter financial futures for immigrant families.

If your organization is interested in becoming a Lending Circles partner, we encourage you to reach out or join us for one of our upcoming Lending Circles Communities events. Together, we can continue to expand financial opportunities and empower communities across the country.

 

Unwavering Motherhood in a Pandemic: Tammy’s Story

In the tapestry of human resilience, some stories stand out like beacons of hope and remind us of our shared struggle and humanity. At MAF, we often hear these stories when talking to clients. Tammy’s remarkable journey migrating from Honduras is one of these stories and a testament to the power of perseverance and the human spirit.

On the move to find a place to thrive 

Tammy’s journey has not always been an easy one. From facing the harsh realities of a difficult relationship to enduring the heartbreak of two miscarriages, she found herself at a crossroads. Fueled by the unyielding love for her children, she took a leap of faith, leaving Georgia’s shadows behind and venturing to New York.

She told us, “I felt there was no way out; we owed a lot of rent, and it was coming; I could see that I was going to lose the apartment with the two children.” Leaving Georgia turned out to be what she needed to find community and support. She began rebuilding her life in New York with the support of her mother. She also relied on her faith to bolster her through trying times and provide her with the strength and courage she needed to overcome adversity.

“But I feel that it has made me more of a warrior than I already am, it has made me a woman who makes my decisions when I have to make them.“

Even though New York came with its own set of challenges, including contracting COVID-19 in the first month and having to live in a shelter, she remained focused on her goals and never lost sight of what was important. She was able to find ways to provide for her children and was proud that they always ate three meals a day. Her love for her children was a driving force that kept her going, even when times were tough.

A bright road ahead

Tammy’s story isn’t just one of survival; it’s a testament to her transformative journey. She went from shelter living to securing her own apartment, a reflection of her strength and commitment to her children’s future.

Tammy is always looking ahead. She is working hard to finish her GED and exploring the potential opportunities the real estate industry could provide for her family. Even though her children are only eight and four years old, she thinks about them graduating in the future and starting a job, such as becoming real estate agents. She is having conversations with her children early on and teaching them the importance of hard work, dedication, and perseverance.

“To see my children, to educate them in a good way, for them to be better than me, better than me in every way. And that’s why I try to be the best so that they see that I’m making an effort, so that they make an effort in every situation so that they never let themselves fall.“

Tammy’s dreams are tangible, and her goals are firmly grounded. Completing her GED is high on her list of aspirations. She already completed courses and is waiting to hear back about a scholarship that would allow her to take the exam this year. But more than that, her dream is to instill compassion and community service in her children, echoing the invaluable lessons she has learned on her journey. She told us that no matter their obstacles, she always reminds her kids to be respectful and polite to others. She reminds us that despite the obstacles that life may throw our way, we must never lose sight of what is truly important.

With her experiences, she leaves our community with some incredible advice:

“… we should always believe in ourselves because that is the first thing we should do as a human being, always believe in ourselves.”

Tammy’s story reminds us of resilience and hope, shining light on the strength of a woman who, against all odds, embraced life’s challenges and carved her destiny. Her journey from Honduras to the United States embodies the essence of the human spirit and reminds us that, no matter the circumstances, our dreams can be realized through unyielding determination and unwavering belief in ourselves.

We’re grateful to Tammy for sharing part of her journey with us after we met her through the Immigrant Families Recovery Program (IFRP). Join us to support families like Tammy’s here.

When the Mountain Does Not Come: Eduardo’s Story

Amidst the backdrop of a pandemic that reshaped lives worldwide, Eduardo’s story emerged as one of unwavering perseverance, resourcefulness, and steadfast dedication to family.

When COVID-19 first hit, Eduardo found himself grappling with a reduced work schedule, and therefore reduced income. Like millions of others, he navigated the uncertainties with a heavy heart and determined mind. Working on the frontline in a food processing company, he not only had to worry about his own safety but also about how to make ends meet for his family.

The challenges were compounded by the distance that separated him from his loved ones. With family back in Guatemala, Eduardo had an additional responsibility – the financial support that he provided was a lifeline that stretched across borders.

Exclusion Amidst Struggle 

One of the most painful aspects of the pandemic for Eduardo was the exclusion he felt. While conversations buzzed about stimulus checks and financial relief, Eduardo and many immigrant families like his were left behind. His coworkers discussed the government relief they were receiving, the stimulus checks that would cushion their financial fall and the opportunities that came with it. But for Eduardo, these talks were a stark reminder of his exclusion from these benefits.

“When we were at lunchtime with the guys, there were talks and versions of many things, and they began to say… ‘You are going to get a check of $1,200,’ and some said: ‘no,’ ‘yes,’ and others: ‘I already got it.’ Well, they only talked about residents and citizens, and we just stared off into space.”

“Cuando la montaña no viene a Mahoma, Mahoma tiene que ir a la montaña.”

Eduardo embraced this common saying in his home country, translating as: “When the mountain does not come to Mohammed, Mohammed has to go to the mountain.” He realized that waiting for things to change wasn’t an option, especially when there were mouths to feed and children who depended on him. Eduardo took matters into his own hands. He bought haircutting tools and spread the word among his coworkers to build his clientele and income stream. It was a practical solution that not only helped him make ends meet, but also brought a sense of community amongst his colleagues and neighbors during a time of isolation.

While Eduardo’s determination sustained him, his dreams soared beyond borders. He envisioned a bigger, brighter future for his family, a reality where they could live in a spacious home with room for his daughters to play. Memories of his homeland, Guatemala, tugged at his heartstrings, but he knew that his daughters deserved the opportunities that the U.S. could offer.

Eduardo’s story is one that resonates deeply with us, echoing the struggles and aspirations of many immigrants who face exclusion while striving to build a better life for their families.

We’re grateful to Eduardo for sharing part of his journey with us after we met him through the Immigrant Families Recovery Program (IFRP). Join us to support families like Eduardo’s here.

Starting over in a storm

Starting over is always difficult. Starting over after a ten-year marriage and with a two-year-old in the midst of a pandemic seems insurmountable. But this is where Diana starts her journey.

Diana had just begun a career in sales to be able to support herself and her daughter when the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted her progress. In the early days of the pandemic, having a new career that required in-person interaction was especially difficult. Being unable to work, combined with the fear and uncertainty of the pandemic, felt like trying to start her new life in the midst of a storm.

Finding her own way 

Faced with supporting her daughter on her own, Diana told us how she found the options for her very limiting.

In my case the job opportunities that I could aspire to, were not office jobs, they were hard jobs, restaurant jobs, cleaning jobs, those kind of jobs… So, the fact of considering eight to ten hours working at a job earning $10 (which I imagine is the average), I am talking about $80…What am I going to do with that money and I’m not going to see [my daughter] all day?

Diana decided to forgo her limited options and take on the challenge of learning sales and building her own career. She wanted to be able to provide for her daughter while also being present for her. Even though she received messages that she should do something safe, something predictable, Diana took the step to believe in herself. She shared that in the beginning, she had to overcome a lot of self-doubt, knowing that she was the only one who was there to support her daughter and to cover all the expenses for her household. But she found the confidence to move ahead and make her own way.

“When my daughter grows up, she will not complain to me, or maybe she will not even remember if I had or did not have money in the process, if I fed her, if I took her to extraordinary places. What she will complain to me is that I was not with her”.

Turbulent waters

Like many in our community, Diana was excluded from federal relief during the pandemic. Through talking with friends in her community, she found out about MAF’s programs—one of the few supports she could apply for as an immigrant.

“[MAF’s support] was the only economic support that I received in the COVID process, and it was a great blessing, maybe it was not thousands of dollars, but it was enough to give me peace in that process.”

As she was working through a difficult divorce, Diana had just lost her legal representation because she couldn’t continue paying. Her acceptance into the Immigrant Families Recovery Program came at the right time to help her hire a lawyer so she could navigate the divorce and custody process with a bit more peace of mind.

Just keep swimming

Diana’s dedication to her career as a way to provide for her daughter is evident as her eyes light up when she talks about her strategies to be successful.

“…My goal is every day to talk to everyone about my product, even if I go to take my daughter to the pediatrician. Wherever I go, I share what I do, I have my cards (I always bring them with me), and I share them with people, I go to a business and I put my cards there.”

Even though Diana was introduced to MAF through our COVID relief programs, she soon joined other MAF programs. Diana joined a Lending Circle in Houston with one of MAF’s partners. In community with other women, she participated in a Lending Circle for $200 per month and used the opportunity to raise her credit score from 400-500 up to almost 650 points.

Diana is always looking for ways to grow. She just opened her first office space to grow her sales team. She is excited to train a team in a way that helps them generate income and be successful themselves.

The next wave

We asked Diana to share her advice for others who may be facing similar difficult circumstances. Her resilience was evident as she shared what gives her the strength to keep moving ahead, even in the midst of a storm.

My advice would be to look internally within themselves, to look for help in faith, in God, no matter what religion they practice, what they believe, but to know that there is a power much greater than us, which is, in a manner of speaking, the hand that moves many things and that is much more powerful than us. Putting our trust in that power, in God, but also putting action to do the things that we have to do at the moment, not tomorrow, not what is coming in the future. I learned that doing things day by day will give you results.

Diana continues to work daily to provide for her daughter and build a better future for both of them. As she grows her business, she also shares her dreams for her family’s future. What she hopes for most is to see her daughter happy and fulfilled as she grows, and she hopes to one day be able to purchase a home to provide more space for her daughter to run and jump.

We’re grateful to Diana for sharing part of her journey with us after we met her through the Immigrant Families Recovery Program (IFRP). Learn more about the initiative here and how MAF is helping immigrant families rebuild from the pandemic.

Hitting the Road with Lending Circles

Since MAF’s inception, Lending Circles have been a foundational tool to help low-income and immigrant families build and establish credit throughout the U.S. Building on what has already been good and working in immigrant families’ lives for generations, Lending Circles takes after traditional community practices worldwide where people come together with neighbors and friends to lend money amongst themselves. MAF formalized this time-honored tradition and acts as a loan servicer to bring people together in a shared lending model while reporting people’s monthly payments so that they build credit in the process. Lending Circles is the perfect example of the magic that can happen when the community comes together to support one another.

Scaling through trust

While MAF is headquartered in San Francisco, CA, we can reach communities nationwide with Lending Circles through partnerships. We recognize that there are countless nonprofit organizations already working with their local communities who understand people’s unique needs and circumstances. Honoring these relationships, MAF partners with expert nonprofits across the country to expand our reach with Lending Circles.

Our nonprofit partners come from a wide range of backgrounds, but the common thread is their ability to leverage Lending Circles as a complementary offering to the clients they already serve. We’ve seen our partners combine Lending Circles with their existing services to help families become homeowners, pair with their financial coaching programs, help refugees integrate into the U.S. financial system, and so much more.

Lending Circles Roadshow

In 2019, MAF launched our Lending Circles Communities campaign for nonprofits interested in partnering with us to bring Lending Circles to their communities. We hit the road and toured six cities just before the pandemic set in, spreading the word about what it means to be a Lending Circles partner and meeting hundreds of incredible nonprofit leaders along the way. Through this tour, we welcomed a cohort of 7 new partners, each uniquely leveraging Lending Circles to support their clients’ financial lives.

Four years later, we’re excited to share that we’re hitting the road again in Spring 2024! We’ll be touring the U.S., hosting in-person and virtual events to rally together our next cohort of partners. As families continue rebuilding from the pandemic while navigating inflation and other financial and political challenges, access to safe and affordable credit and capital has never been more important.

Be the first to get updates on where you can join us at a roadshow event! We can’t wait to connect with nonprofits nationwide during this campaign as we expand our partnership network.

 

Announcing MAF Learning Hub

We are excited to announce the launch of MAF Learning Hub, our new learning management system (LMS). Individuals can get culturally relevant financial education and resources to help them build financial confidence and achieve their goals. MAF Learning Hub is a cloud-based platform that provides users with a seamless and engaging learning experience.

Expanding access to relevant financial education

We believe in a community-centered approach, focusing on the strengths of the communities we work with. From the beginning, we have been dedicated to creating pathways for community members to access timely and relevant financial education that recognizes them as experts in their own lives.

From in-person workshops to streaming live charlas financieras to our MyMAF app, MAF constantly adapts to ensure that our financial education is relevant and accessible. Now, leveraging technology, we are launching MAF Learning Hub, allowing our community to access content, resources, and engagement opportunities anytime and anywhere.

Interactive, self-paced learning

MAF Learning Hub users can start with core topics and engage in self-paced learning that covers fundamentals such as building credit. For example, a person joining a Lending Circle to establish credit for the first time may find themselves in a complex financial realm that can feel overwhelming. MAF Learning Hub eases this transition by providing participants with tools and knowledge to develop critical financial skills.

The courses in MAF Learning Hub consist of short, interactive lessons that can be completed in just a few minutes, anywhere. As clients progress through the core topics, they can boost their confidence and prepare for the next steps in their financial journey.

In-depth engagement

MAF Learning Hub offers more advanced options for individuals who are ready to go beyond the basics. Users can participate in activities, join group financial education sessions to connect with other learners, and access additional MAF programs and resources. MAF Learning Hub emphasizes the strength of the community by providing online group sessions where participants can ask questions, exchange advice, and offer support. Additionally, clients can schedule one-on-one coaching sessions with an MAF financial coach to receive personalized guidance in achieving their goals.

Growing together

In the development of MAF Learning Hub, we consider the different aspects of our client’s lives and refer to our “Ladder of Engagement.” This roadmap provides various opportunities for clients to engage with MAF. Our ladder of engagement allows us to create multiple entry points to our financial services, recognizing that each person’s financial journey is unique. It also enables us to deepen engagement by offering different options. MAF Learning Hub is a flexible addition to the ladder of engagement, catering to clients at any stage of their financial journey, whether it’s their first exposure to financial education, supplementary resources following a coaching session, or a group session they have attended with us.

MAF Learning Hub was created using a user-centered design approach focusing on the communities we serve. These communities face various challenges in their complex financial lives, such as legal status, variable income, language barriers, and limited access to financial products. When developing new content and tools, we consider all of these factors to ensure that users feel supported and welcomed.

Only the beginning

MAF Learning Hub is an ever-evolving product, and we are excited to invite you to join the platform and provide feedback to support its ongoing development. We will regularly add new content and resources to ensure that the platform remains responsive and relevant. By measuring platform usage and analyzing client activities, we will securely gather data about clients’ financial goals and outcomes, enabling us to provide even better support.

At MAF, we believe that everyone deserves the opportunity to build financial confidence. MAF Learning Hub is a step towards turning that dream into a reality.

Currently, MAF Learning Hub is available to active MAF clients. Stay tuned for expanded access in the coming months!

 

A Tale of Two Recoveries: How Immigrant Families Survived COVID-19

Lately, we’ve been hearing in the news how most American households are doing much better financially today than they were before the COVID-19 pandemic. From stimulus checks and unemployment insurance to the expanded Child Tax Credit, federal COVID-19 relief played a critical role in helping families survive, and even improve their financial footing.

But this picture misses another lesser-known story of recovery: the experience of immigrant families who were excluded from federal pandemic relief. 

On December 2, 2021, we came together to uplift the stories and experiences of immigrant families left behind. We reflected with partners and asked ourselves, how can we help immigrant families rebuild their financial lives? Watch the recording below.

11.5 million immigrants and their families were denied federal COVID-19 relief.

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 recipient

Immigrants have long been excluded from this country’s social safety net. Despite paying billions in federal taxes every year, undocumented immigrants remain ineligible for nearly all federal protections, from health insurance to food and housing subsidies.

During the pandemic, three in four undocumented immigrants filled frontline essential roles, risking their own lives to help keep us fed, safe, and healthy. Yet, even as they stepped up for the country, they remained excluded from federal relief. It’s estimated that an immigrant family of four was denied upward of $11,400. Without this critical support, immigrant families’ lives took a devastating hit. 

Essential, invisible, and excluded. 

Drawing on our unparalleled survey of more than 11,000 immigrants excluded from federal relief, we got an honest and painful look at how immigrant families survived.  

Without a social safety net to fall back on, many immigrants had no choice but to show up for work. The costs for workers on the frontlines was immense: not only did workers put their families’ health at risk, but those who did get sick faced a downward spiral of financial hardship.

Families where a member got sick with COVID-19 were not only more likely to lose income and fall behind on bills than households where no one got sick, but they were also more likely to face penalties, have their utilities shut off, and be evicted.

Many immigrant families walked into the crisis with limited access and few financial options. Families who were invisible to the formal financial system prior to COVID-19?lacking a Social Security Number or Tax ID?were less likely to have checking accounts or credit cards.

And with fewer financial strategies, these families had fewer options to draw on during COVID-19. Indeed, we saw that immigrants who had a Tax ID were 45% more likely to pay their monthly bills in full than immigrants without a Tax ID. 

So how did families survive in a system that treated them as essential and invisible? Many went without, as 6 in 10 families reported being unable to cover their basic needs. Despite these sacrifices, many families still had to take on debt. In the depth of the pandemic, families who had fallen behind reported having $2,000 in unpaid bills, representing zombie debt that families will carry with them even into the recovery.

Our calls to action.

So, where do we go from here?

We invited advocates and practitioners to talk about how we can show up, do more, and do better. Across the board, we heard that while steps are being taken to help people rebuild, more needs to happen for a truly equitable and inclusive recovery.

A Tale of Two Recoveries, webinar panelists

SHOW UP: Make policies inclusive of all immigrants. The federal government has set a damaging precedent of excluding immigrants from critical social safety net policies. However, there are choices we can make at the state and local levels to help offer relief with the resources we have available now. Policy is a choice, and it’s in our power to advocate for more inclusive protections and services for all immigrants across all levels of government.

DO MORE: Remove structural barriers. Without legal status, immigrants continue to be left out of critical resources that could help them rebuild. But accessibility runs even deeper: from language to technology barriers, we need to ensure programs and services are delivered in-language, in-culture, and in ways that help families use resources when they need them.

DO BETTER: Change mindsets together. From COVID-19 relief packages to the growing recognition that giving people cash works, we’re encouraged by the progress that has been made to better support people at the margins. But we need more allies in this fight so that we can build systems that create more equitable pathways of opportunity. When we harness our collective power, we can create lasting change.

We know the work is far from over.

Immigrants have been excluded from our nation’s support systems for too long, and COVID-19 has only exacerbated many of these existing inequities. This is why our work is more important than ever.

When we look ahead, we’re anchored by José’s reminder: “We have to rely on one another to keep ourselves whole and keep our spirits up. We can’t let the devastation of our reality overtake our spirits.” Together, with respect and mutuality, we can help immigrant families rebuild their financial lives with dignity.

Demand Lasting Change: Reacting To The Latest DACA Court Ruling

After a tumultuous nine years, DACA—and the immigrants it supports—are under attack. Again. On Friday, July 16, a Texas federal court ordered the DACA program to partially end. We’ve been here before, and frankly, we’re tired.

We know from experience that the DACA program has helped recipients secure higher wages, pursue an education, and work toward their dreams. Moreover, its impact ripples out to the families and communities of recipients. Over the years, families, students, and business owners have shared with us the impact DACA has had in their lives:

Nine years ago, DACA was, at best, intended to be a temporary fix to a broken system, a house of sticks to hold the nation over while we lay a concrete foundation for lasting immigration reform. Defending the DACA program and supporting its recipients is crucial.  However, it’s not enough. It’s time to end that fight for good.

It’s time for citizenship for all.

Now is our time to be loud, be heard, and create real, lasting change by passing a pathway to citizenship for all undocumented immigrants. We’re fighting for the millions of immigrants – including over 640,000 DACA recipients – who stepped up to care for our nation’s sick, feed our nation’s families, and lead our nation forward throughout the pandemic. They are, and have always been, essential.

We need action. Here are five things you can do today to make a difference. Given the fear and uncertainty cascading through immigrant communities after the latest ruling, every action matters.

How To Support DACA Recipients

1. Spread the word about MAF’s DACA fee assistance

At this time, current DACA statuses remain valid, and renewal applications will continue to be processed. MAF remains committed to ensuring that the $495 filing fee isn’t a barrier. If you are eligible to renew your DACA status, pre-apply for MAF’s DACA fee assistance to cover the filing fee. If you are a first-time DACA applicant, we encourage you to consult a trusted legal service provider about your case.

If you know anyone who could be eligible for renewal, please invite them to apply! These are a few stories from clients who have recently received MAF’s DACA fee assistance.

“This grant is important to me because it will allow me to safely continue to support myself and my family financially. Through DACA and the associated work permit I am able to practice a career I care about with the employee benefits and rights I deserve.” — Delia

“This grant will help my family so much in giving me a chance to be able to renew my DACA without having to fall behind on other payments I have. It will reduce some stress we have right now trying to figure out how to pay my renewal. It’s a great opportunity because I will also be able to pay back on a payment plan which makes it so much more accessible for us to do so.” — Gloria

“This grant is really important to me so I can continue with my DACA card and be able to work and help my parents out, I also want to set money aside to go back to school and continue with my career to be a Pre-school teacher.” — Yaritza

2. Share credible information

It can be hard to know what and what to trust in an age of misinformation. That’s why we created a resource with the latest information on DACA. If you know anyone who is wondering what the latest ruling in Texas means for them, please share this page.

The main take-away: USCIS will NOT grant DACA status to first-time applicants if their applications were not already approved before July 16, 2021.

3. Contact Congress

We encourage you to join us in contacting your member of Congress today to demand a pathway to citizenship for all immigrants. The Senate has already included legalization in its budget resolution, now it’s up to the House of Representatives to do the same. Writing your Representative is a fast, easy, and impactful way to make your voice heard. This resource includes a letter already drafted for you! Be sure to send your letter ASAP.

4. Sign a petition

Add your name to an online petition from United We Dream. This petition calls on lawmakers to include a path to citizenship for all undocumented immigrants in the reconciliation package before Congress goes on recess in August. 

5. Donate to MAF’s DACA Fee Assistance campaign

The $495 filing fee shouldn’t stop young immigrants from renewing their applications. We’re stepping up with a national campaign to provide partial and full grants to cover the application costs for DACA recipients with the greatest need. But we can’t do it alone.

We’ve already raised $1 million. Join us and help us double our reach. Stand with immigrants today.

MAF is proud to stand with immigrant communities. Follow us on social media for the latest updates on how to show up and do more for immigrants.

MAF Awarded $45 Million To Support Immigrant Families During COVID-19 Crisis. It’s Still Not Enough — Congress Must Act.

Building on MAF’s nationwide COVID-19 Rapid Response campaign, philanthropist MacKenzie Scott awarded MAF $45 million to provide direct relief to those hit hardest by the pandemic. MacKenzie Scott’s generous gift enables MAF to continue providing financial relief to immigrant families excluded from receiving help. Over the past year, MAF has already distributed direct cash assistance to 48,000+ individuals to help them weather the crisis—and today the organization is poised to do even more. 

In spite of these efforts, the reach of a single organization like MAF is nowhere near enough to meet the staggering financial devastation faced by millions of immigrant families left out of federal relief. We need leadership and action at a national level to ensure the last and the least are a part of a sustainable recovery.

Congress has taken meaningful steps in recent months to expand the safety net when families needed it most.

The December 2020 COVID relief bill and 2021 American Rescue Plan extended the latest rounds of financial relief to more than 3 million people in mixed-status households left out of the 2020 CARES Act. Yet, an estimated 11 million people in immigrant families continue to be denied assistance even as they keep the economy afloat in essential work.

“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, Rapid Response grant recipient

This exclusion comes at a time when our economy rests on the shoulders of essential workers who cannot access support to weather the pandemic even as they are suffering higher rates of COVID infections and deaths. Essential workers are immigrant workers and many have no access to relief. They are going hungry, falling behind on rent, missing monthly bills for no fault of their own. 

More must be done. 

In meeting this moment of crisis, Congress must advance desperately needed relief and include everyone—regardless of immigration status. Over the last year, we have seen how the health and economic costs of the COVID-19 pandemic have fallen disproportionately on the marginalized, excluded, and invisible. Congress must expand support to all immigrants, putting equity front and center to deliver relief to the least and last. This intentional focus on equity is at the heart of MAF’s Rapid Response Fund, and the means by which the organization has provided nearly $30 million in direct cash assistance.

“We’ve spent 14 years building scalable platforms, relevant products, and a national network of community based organizations to help low-income and immigrant families improve their financial security. Now, we’re using our platform as pipes to effectively and with dignity distribute the crisp waters of relief into the hands of those most parched, those who have been denied and forgotten.”

MAF CEO José Quiñonez

MAF’s capacity to act and scale quickly is a direct result of the partners who have and continue to believe in its vision of leveraging the best of technology and finance in service of those left in the shadows.  Their sustained support has enabled MAF to pioneer new ways of meeting people where they are, in the fullness of their complexity and their humanity.  MAF is now expanding its equity-centered work helping low-income and immigrant families directly during this unprecedented crisis. 

MAF applauds MacKenzie Scott for showing up, with urgency and conviction, to do more for families relegated to the shadows. Now it’s time for Congress to do the same. 

Immigrants are essential, risking their lives to keep our country afloat during this pandemic. 

They have stepped up for us, and now it’s our turn to step up for them. If we really want a more permanent and prosperous path to recovery, Congress needs to eliminate the structural barriers that have long stood in the way of people’s abilities to reach their full economic potential. 

Today, we have not one but five proposals on the table that could help us get there. We have proposals that would provide legal status and protections to millions of Dreamers, Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders, farmworkers, and essential workers and their families. While these bills can be the critical building blocks to move us forward, they are not the end goal. Congress must ultimately push forward with the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021, which offers a sweeping reform that would grant 11 million undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship. 

By removing these long-standing barriers which have for so long pushed millions into the shadows, immigrants can have the opportunity to rebuild their financial lives more fully and with dignity. They can have financial stability in their lives to rebuild their financial security, and have a fighting chance in a post-pandemic recovery. 

Our work is far from done—it is our collective responsibility to urge our representatives to take immediate action. We need to offer relief and citizenship for all if we truly seek to rebuild an equitable world that works for all.

Four Years of Possibility: The Legacy of Sustained Organizing

The attack on the Capitol was horrifying. Devastating. Yet the narrative dominating the headlines is only one side of this historic month. When we flip over the decaying face of hatred and fear, we see another face of our nation emerge, fresh as rain and hopeful as a dream. We celebrate, despite tragedy, because this vital face is powerful and dynamic. It continues to nourish those of us who believe in a world where all people can be accepted and can be loved.

The historic, unprecedented, monumental victories in Georgia bring us one step closer to that world.

Warnock, the first black Senator of the South, and Ossoff, the first Jewish Senator of Georgia, represent the hopes of a richly diverse community of supporters. Their victory ensures that these hopes might soon become manifest for those in the state of Georgia, the nation and, we can say without hyperbole, the entire world.

A victory of such epic consequence did not, could not have come overnight. It was instead the culmination of a decade’s long, herculean effort in organizing lead by the inimitable Stacy Abrams, Deborah Scott, Felicia Davis and many others from the “next iteration of organizers” who trace their heritage to the civil rights heroes of the last century.  We lift up the names of these catalytic black women who lift up the voices of so many others, those who’ve been forgotten, denied and left in the shadows for far too long. 

Their voice, their power manifest, is the shot heard ‘round the world.

While the incoming Biden / Harris administration has a daunting task before it, they will be able to accomplish more, govern better, and lead more boldly because of the groundwork set for them. Put simply, years of diligent, persistent base-building, coalition-gathering, table-setting and dedicated organizing was able to flip a red state blue and unlock an entire horizon of potential progress.

We cannot waste this opportunity.  MAF is calling on accountability for the following policy promises in the first 100 days:

Expanded COVID-19 economic relief

Giving people cash assistance at critical moments in their lives can be transformational. It can be the difference between paying rent for another month, or falling into a downward spiral of financial struggle. Rebuilding starts with financial security. COVID-19 has devastated families’ finances, causing ripple effects of economic insecurities into other areas of their lives. People have had to skip meals, fall behind on their rent, and avoid seeking medical attention during a pandemic. Delaying relief will only make it harder for people to recover. 

When the federal government offered relief, it excluded 15 million people because of their household immigration status. From day one, MAF has advocated for relief for all, regardless of status. MAF stepped up to offer cash assistance to 43,000 people. 

From our research, we see the definitive impact cash assistance can make in people’s lives. In MAF’s survey of immigrants left out of CARES Act relief, we saw a 10-fold increase in the number of immigrant households who have no income today. If these families had been included in the CARES Act, more than one in four would have been able to pay off their bills in full for the month with as little as $1,200. We can’t continue to exclude our essential workers–we need relief for all.  

Immigration reform

We urge the Biden Administration to keep his immigration campaign promises. Reinstating DACA will be a great first step—but we can’t stop there. We need comprehensive policies that will protect and help all immigrants rebuild their financial lives post COVID-19. This means starting with a path to citizenship for all 11 million undocumented immigrants, the vast majority of whom have lived in this country for decades and many counted among essential workers fighting at the frontlines of this pandemic. 

This also means keeping families together, giving asylum-seekers the opportunity to seek safety, and ending discriminatory Muslim bans. If we truly want to rebuild this country after this pandemic, we need to invest in people. Let’s start by extending protections to our essential workers and their families–millions of immigrants who have stepped up for us in our time of greatest need.  

The lesson we draw from Georgia is that these policies are only possible when built atop the victories of joyful, inclusive organizing. For this reason, we’ve been investing in the mobilization work necessary to create a true culture of engagement for all people, regardless of status. In 2020 we engaged our community of over 100,000 about the census and election, listening to their stories and needs.  In 2021 we’ll continue to organize more boldly and fearlessly because the fight for the next election, the next mid-terms, the tomorrow of our dreams, has already begun.

The headlines may very well continue to be dominated by the scowling faces of loud, white men. Yet we’ll continue to keep our eyes on that other face, steady at the head of the march towards justice, the light of hope that keeps us warm in the bitter fight for equality, ever forward.