Jewish Family Service is offering help for essential workers with the ‘Hand Up Cars Program’
thanks to low-interest car loans for credit-challenged families. Photo courtesy JFS

At a time when reliable transportation is crucial for those serving on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic, Jewish Family Service of San Diego is encouraging them – as well as any other credit-challenged individual in San Diego – to apply for its Hand Up Cars program, which facilitates low-interest car loans for low-to-moderate-income residents in San Diego County.

According to recent data, 25% of San Diego’s essential workers do not own their own automobiles – making it more difficult and time-consuming to get to work each day. To help, JFS’s Hand Up Cars program helps working families in the region achieve self-sufficiency through financial education and reliable transportation. Clients receive financing to buy a good used car, in conjunction with financial literacy training, car maintenance education, and personalized coaching.

“For individuals and families intently working on moving forward in the face of the pandemic, we want to help them achieve the independence and security that comes along with owning their own vehicle,” said JFS CEO Michael Hopkins. “This is especially true for essential workers who do not have a reliable vehicle, have been victims of predatory car loans with high-interest rates, or rely on public transportation to get to work. Having access to a reliable personal vehicle at a low-interest rate can be a game-changer. Where most lenders see a risk, we see a family.”

To qualify for a loan, applicants must be employed; an involved parent or guardian of a minor child; low-to-moderate-income with a challenged credit history; at least 18 years old with a valid driver’s license; and have the ability to repay loan and costs related to car ownership, including insurance. Applicants must also be able to afford a 10% down payment.

The maximum loan amount is $10,000 at 12% interest with a term of no more than 60 months to buy a reliable used car. The program is designed to ensure clients’ monthly car payments will not exceed $250. After loan closing, the borrower receives ongoing financial coaching, resource coordination, and referral facilitation from a JFS case manager for the duration of their loan repayment.

For more information about the Hand Up Cars program or to submit a confidential application for an auto loan, call Jewish Family Service at 858-637-3210 or visit

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