Though U.S. citizens and residents received economic support following passage of the CARES Act in spring of 2020, undocumented and mixed-status households were left behind. To bridge this assistance gap, state and local governments across the U.S. have partnered with community-based organizations (CBOs) to establish cash transfer programs to support these populations during the pandemic.

This report provides practical guidance to municipalities considering or currently operating direct cash assistance programs. It is based on insights from in-depth, semi-structured interviews conducted by CFI with 12 program administrators representing seven cash assistance programs.

We identify and detail practices for defining target beneficiaries, establishing eligibility criteria, conducting outreach, onboarding recipients, and disbursing funds. This report also highlights the relative advantages and disadvantages of different approaches at each step of the process.

The insights here may also be of interest to organizations advocating for and supporting the rights of undocumented populations, students and academics, and anyone interested in access to financial and public services for all members of U.S. communities.


Eric Noggle

Former Senior Research Director

Eric oversaw a portfolio of research projects examining consumer financial behavior and its determinants from 2018 to 2021 and led CFI’s workstream on the role of financial services in helping low-income communities mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change.

Prior to joining CFI, Eric served as research director at Microfinance Opportunities. While there, he led numerous research projects — including nearly a dozen Financial Diaries studies — examining financial inclusion and its intersection with energy poverty, labor conditions, and smallholder farmers, among other topics. In addition, Eric analyzed the transaction data of numerous large financial service providers to identify insights that influenced policy, product, and service development. Prior to working in financial inclusion, Eric worked as a high school mathematics teacher.

Eric holds a master’s degree from the Maxwell School at Syracuse University and bachelor’s degrees in economics and political science from the University of Nevada, Reno.

Tess Johnson

Former Research Associate

Tess worked to advance CFI’s research agenda on topics ranging from financial health and financial capability to alternative data and emergency cash transfer program design. Tess joined CFI in September 2016, initially supporting project management of the CFI Research Fellows Program, the HBS-Accion Program on Strategic Leadership in Inclusive Finance, and other research efforts. She oversaw project management of the MSME financial health workstream in Indonesia and India as part of CFI’s partnership with Accion. Tess holds a master’s degree in international relations and international economics from the School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) at Johns Hopkins University, and a bachelor’s degree in political science and human rights from the University of Connecticut.

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