The nonprofit Accelerator for America announced it will aid 10 U.S. states and cities with a $750,000 grant from the Open Society Foundations, providing technical help and $50,000 in funding for each community to deploy a large-scale financial assistance program.
The 10 cities and states include: Atlanta; the State of Connecticut; the State of Rhode Island; Chattanooga, TN; Dayton, OH; Birmingham, AL; Oklahoma City; Salt Lake City; Louisville, KY; and Austin, TX. Each jurisdiction will also receive resources and technological expertise from Mastercard.
The 10 jurisdictions have flexibility to use the funds in ways they see fit to provide residents with direct financial assistance in recovering from the coronavirus pandemic, Accelerator for America President and CEO Rick Jacobs told Smart Cities Dive. He said approaching city solutions with a "one-size-fits-all model" doesn't make sense.
Jacobs lauded the flexibility of the program, noting it could also be a model for the federal government to follow. Chattanooga, TN, for example, is looking at ways to use the funds to provide financial relief to residents who have tested positive for the coronavirus (COVID-19), but who don’t have the money to stay home from work, according to Jacobs.
"Public-private partnerships done right are essential and it is really vital that people in the private and NGO sector realize that government works," he said. "And the government also has to realize that the private sector and the NGO sector can really move things along quickly."
The models these cities and states are developing could also assist in the distribution of other goods or essential services to people, according to Jacobs.
The initiative follows the launch of the Angeleno Campaign — a partnership between Accelerator for America, Mastercard City Possible, the Office of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, and the Mayor’s Fund for Los Angeles — that provides prepaid debit cards to residents whose livelihoods were hardest-hit by the pandemic, especially for those who are unbanked or non-citizens. That program has distributed about $25 million in aid to about 70,000 Los Angeles residents.
The Angeleno card initiative was born in part out of a City Key program unveiled last summer at the U.S. Conference of Mayors summit in Honolulu. That program was intended to provide states and local governments the ability to combine ID, payment and access platforms, Mastercard's Head of Global Cities and City Possible Miguel Gamiño told Smart Cities Dive in an earlier interview.
The cards were originally anticipated to be used for an extreme weather event or earthquake, but were quickly adapted to meet resident needs during the coronavirus, he said.