Digital aid becomes lifeline for unbanked Guatemalans during pandemic
Visa Miami helps bring Covid relief funds quickly and securely via tokenized solution
Nancy Gomez, a resident of Guatemala City, Guatemala, temporarily closed her salon in early 2020, believing the government-mandated shutdown due to the spread of Covid would last only three weeks. But that wasn’t the case, and over time she found herself unable to keep her stylists on payroll, bills started piling up and she soon became worried she wouldn’t have enough money to buy groceries for her and her family.
More than half (56 percent1) of people in Guatemala are unbanked, which means that when something unexpected happens, like a pandemic, that forces them to rely on a backup financial plan without access to a financial institution, they’re left seeking some form of immediate relief.
Kiria Habel, senior consultant at Visa Miami, became concerned about the impact of the shutdown in her Latin American market. She turned that concern into action, working together with her client, Compañía de Procesamiento de Medios de Pago Guatemala, also known as VisaNet Guatemala, to deliver a solution and fast. Enter: Bono Familia, a digital solution that delivered much needed immediate government aid to the people who needed it most.
“Unlike the U.S., we couldn’t rely on the postal service to deliver physical cards. Instead, we drafted a solution that uses tokenized prepaid cards so the person wouldn’t actually need a physical card. Instead, using their phone, they could sign up for this program and — that same day — get access to much-needed funds,” she said.
A safety net
For Gomez, Bono Familia came just at the right time. “Without Bono Familia, I’m not sure what we would have done,” she said in her native Spanish. “It kept me and my family afloat during difficult times. It was also the hope I needed to keep fighting for my business.”
Nancy re-opened Salòn Estilo y Belleza in the latter part of 2020. She said she’s delighted to see her clients again, and excited to bring her team back together again.
“It’s rewarding to know that our solution delivered immediate funds that helped people pay their medical bills, food, and other necessities during such an uncertain time,” Habel added.
Habel joined Visa in Miami in 2019 and has enjoyed taking on creative challenges that lead to innovation. “I always try to be open, listen to my client’s ideas, and ask myself ‘Why not? Why not try this idea?’” Working with her financial clients, she has helped deliver tools and solutions that make a big impact for local communities. “Visa gives us amazing tools to develop solutions that are good for the business and good for society,” she said. “Working for this kind of company is gratifying because it brings a sense of purpose to what I do in my everyday life.”