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LA rolls out pre-paid cards for Covid-19 financial assistance

The cash assistance model, created with Accelerator for America and Mastercard’s City Possible network, could be quickly scaled to other cities.

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Amid the coronavirus crisis, the City of Los Angeles is providing pre-paid debit cards to get financial assistance to the most in-need residents faster.

 

The programme is being deployed with Accelerator for America and Mastercard’s City Possible, and the partners say the approach could be quickly scaled to other cities.

 

The Angeleno Campaign is aiming to raise $15 million in private donations, through the Mayor’s Fund for Los Angeles, to help citizens in need during the pandemic.

 

The funds are being distributed via no-fee, pre-paid debit cards, enabled by City Possible, to citizens who are experiencing financial hardship due to Covid-19-related job losses or furloughing. Those particularly at risk and set to benefit from the programme include low-wage hourly workers who had jobs in homes and restaurants, seasonal workers, day labourers, street vendors and self-employed people.

 

The Angeleno Campaign is aiming to raise $15 million, through the Mayor’s Fund for Los Angeles, to help citizens in need during the pandemic.

 

The roll-out of the pre-paid cards follows a week-long programme which used grocery gift cards.

 

“Getting these dollars to families will help make sure that Angelenos overlooked by federal cash grants receive the assistance they need in this crisis,” said Eric Garcetti, Mayor of Los Angeles and co-founder of Accelerator for America. "Mastercard’s City Possible network and Accelerator for America are incredible partners in this work, and I’m grateful for everything that’s being done to lift up our communities in a moment of extraordinary need."

 

Speeding up the process

 

The pre-paid debit cards will be ready for immediate use in shops as well as online to pay bills. Each card will be loaded with between $750 and $1,500, with assessments based on federal poverty levels.

 

The system aims to get cash to people much faster and to reach those who would otherwise be excluded from federal assistance due to their employment or immigration status. Traditional financial assistance programmes are also typically delivered via cheques, which further slow things down and leave out the unbanked.

 

The debit cards are being distributed via 16 existing Family Source Centres in Los Angeles.

 

Rick Jacobs, Accelerator for America co-founder and CEO, said initially the aim is to make one-off payments but added that “the more money we receive [through The Mayor’s Fund for Los Angeles], the more we can give out to citizens in need.”

 

City scaling

 

The programme was created and launched in just eight days and could be replicated by other cities, Jacobs says.

"We are making this model available to cities nationwide as a way to solve the problems of how to physically distribute financial assistance, serve the unbanked, and serve those ineligible for federal assistance," said Jacobs. "Our mission has always been to identify and develop solutions that could be scaled and replicated by cities nationwide."

 

“The reason we were able to launch the programme quickly is really because we just decided to do it. We had all the elements and relationships, and we just made it happen,” Jacobs added.

 

He said other cities can move just as fast too, and that LA proves what is possible.

 

"The reason we were able to launch the programme quickly is really because we just decided to do it."

 

A separate LA Emergency Covid-19 Crisis Fund has also been set up to help families, small businesses, healthcare workers and homeless people with support such as childcare, meals, counselling and healthcare equipment.

 

Accelerator for America was set up in 2017 to deliver solutions for economic insecurity and share them with cities nationwide.

 

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