In March 2020, a generation-defining pandemic destroyed people’s financial lives. Families across the country struggled but millions of workers, students, and immigrant families were treated as invisible and excluded from critical assistance. We moved swiftly to deliver cash assistance to those too often left last and left, helping people feel seen and heard. Through partnership and connection with people, we found hope in this crisis.
Immigrant families and college students shared firsthand the difficulties they faced during the pandemic. Out of the depths of these financial struggles, they offer insights into how we can all show up and do more for those left behind.
In October 2020, we conducted a survey of grantees to learn how the COVID-19 pandemic impacted those left behind. 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.
The 2020-21 school year was unlike any other, and low-income college students across California had to make difficult choices between pursuing a degree or supporting their family. While students navigated the crisis, we heard that even a small amount of financial help at critical times can make a significant impact.
MAF’s Rapid Response Fund provided 65,000 direct cash grants to workers, students, and immigrant families who were hit hardest by the pandemic and denied federal aid. More than nine in ten grantees had money on the way to them on the same day they got their application approved, helping to put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads.
We were not set up to deliver emergency relief, but we listened to clients and pivoted from interest-free loans to direct cash assistance to better meet their needs. We launched the Rapid Response Fund within days of the California stay-at-home order, scaling our existing systems and building new ones. MAFistas led with compassion and kindness, demonstrating the best of what technology and finance can be.
Our team’s top priority was getting cash quickly into the hands of people who were left behind. We relied on technology and trusted partnerships to scale our work and reach more people.
Client-centered technology has always been at the core of our work, but the pandemic challenged us to rely on tech in deeper ways. In a matter of weeks, we ramped up our tech platforms by a factor of 100 to deliver grants quickly and efficiently, at a scale we had never even dreamed of.
We are grateful for the leadership and support of philanthropic partners who stepped up with us to mobilize critical resources for community members. Thanks to you, what started as a $1 million fund grew into a $55 million nation-wide effort to support those who were left last and least.
The last year and a half has made clear the urgent need to support programs rooted in equity, that step up to meet the realities and needs of immigrants and essential workers who continue to be left out.
The fight is far from over. It will take years for families to recover and rebuild from the devastation. At MAF, we’re bringing all that we have to bear in the fight against poverty, just as essential workers did in the midst of the global pandemic. We’re launching a $25M Immigrant Families Recovery Program, providing a guaranteed income alongside financial and self-advocacy training for the essential workers who showed up for us.
The SHP Foundation
Sergey Brin Family Foundation
Connie & Bob Lurie
Jim & Becky Morgan
Gloria Principe and John O’Farrell
Tammy & Bill Crown
The George and Judy Marcus Family Foundation
The Janet and Clinton Reilly Family Foundation
Mark & Mary Stevens
Kristen Campbell Reed
Forever Strong Fund
Andrew & Marina Martin Family Fund
Neukermans Family Fund
John Fisher & Raphaela Lipinsky DeGette
Miriam Muscarolas & Grant Abramson
David & Susan Tunnell
John Blatz & Meghan Kelly
Violet World Foundation
Fresh Cut Creative
Susan Steinhauser & Daniel Greenberg