Faced with a devastating pandemic in 2020, MAF stepped up to meet the needs of low-income and immigrant communities with what they needed most in this crisis: unrestricted cash assistance. Guided by our community-centered approach, we launched a COVID-19 Rapid Response Fund to provide immediate relief to low-wage workers, immigrants, and college students who lost income during the pandemic.
On the day the fund opened, we were overwhelmed by the amount of need. With more than 250,000 grant applications but only enough funding to support 70,000 people, we chose to be more intentional in our funding distribution. We decided against a ‘first-come, first-served” approach or lottery system, approaches that benefit people with access, information, and luck. Instead, we took what we’ve learned over the years from serving low-income and immigrant families to create a Financial Equity Framework. Under this framework, we prioritized people who stood to benefit the most from relief: people facing structural barriers with the fewest income streams and most financial strains. Notably, without considering race or ethnicity, MAF’s financial equity approach delivered 93% of emergency grants to people of color.
For years, MAF has challenged what is possible in the fight against poverty, innovating solutions rooted in community that put poor people front and center. Our Financial Equity Framework is yet another way we are continuing our fight for social justice: by offering a clear, relevant, and actionable tool that can reach people facing multiple inequities in their financial lives. By focusing on financial equity, we can move closer to racial equity, and unleash the full potential of people who have been living at the margins of society for too long.