Pandemic Response Blog

Los Angeles, United States: Inclusive City COVID-19 Response & Recovery

In the City of Los Angeles, Mayor Eric Garcetti committed to build an equitable and inclusive COVID-19 response and recovery. Stepping in where the US national government purposefully excluded migrants and their families, Los Angeles provided emergency financial assistance to families in need, regardless of their immigration status.

Building a new, innovative direct cash assistance program — the Angeleno Card — the city served residents who fall below the poverty line and do not qualify for other federal aid that excludes undocumented immigrants and informal sector workers. Mayor Garcetti’s Office, and the nonprofit the Mayor’s Fund for Los Angeles, raised $25M from the private sector, philanthropies, and individuals for the program to distribute directly to residents to meet their basic needs.

Families had to meet three criteria to be eligible to receive an Angeleno Card, according to the city’s Housing + Community Investment Department (HCIDLA):

  1. The household was in the City of Los Angeles (verified by a either a valid ID card, tenant agreement, utility bill, or postmarked mail);
  2. The household had a total annual income below the federal poverty level (verified through tax records or through a self-certification process);
  3. The household fell into deeper economic hardship during the COVID-19 crisis because at least one household member lost a job or experienced a reduction in income of at least 50% after March 13, 2020 (verified by a letter from one’s employee or from a nonprofit organization for those in the informal sector, including day laborers and domestic workers).

Eligible families received no fee prepaid debit cards of $700-$1,500 based on their income and household size from Mastercard’s City Possible network.

Critically, applicants’ immigrant status was not requested nor factored towards their eligibility and each of the three eligibility criteria carefully considered the accessibility for undocumented migrants and those working in the informal sector. The program was paid for by private donations, not city tax revenue. As such, receipt of an Angeleno Card is not considered a public benefit subject to the US Public Charge rule, which bars immigrants who use public benefits for more than twelve months from gaining permanent residency in the US.

The program received more than 450,000 applications,187,000 of which were pre-qualified. Given this large need from the community, a lottery was used to choose more than 20,000 households ­— helping more than 70,000 Angelenos.

This innovative, multi-stakeholder program from Los Angeles served a model state-wide and nationally. Following Mayor Garcetti’s example, California Governor Gavin Newsom announced a $75M Disaster Relief Assistance for Immigrants program on May 18. This program will provide approximately 150,000 undocumented adult residents in California with a one-time, state-funded cash benefit of $500 per adult, or up to $1,000 per household.

For more information on LA’s inclusive response and to see examples from other cities, visit


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