California's Consumer Assistance Program gives eligible drivers as much as $1,200 for emissions-related repairs

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Failing a smog check can be the beginning of a financial nightmare. When repairs are out of reach, there are some automotive angels who can step in.

Sara Richter says she felt hopeless because she didn't have the money to fix her 1993 Toyota Corolla. With 300,000 miles, it recently failed a smog check and the single mother of two didn't have the $1,200 it cost to fix it.

"It was really hard for me and I didn't want to be driving my car without having the tags," said Richter.

Irma Avila found herself in a similar tough spot, needing her car to get around, fearing she'd be cited for driving with expired tags, or worse, have her car towed.

"A car isn't a luxury. It's a necessity and we need one to live our daily lives," said Avila.

But thanks to CAP, which stands for the Consumer Assistance Program, and Martha Lozano, from South L.A.'s Redeemer Community Partnership, both women were able to get their cars repaired and back on the road legally.

"It's a big worry in our community. On top of all the other things that they have to worry about," said Lozano. "You have to apply online. You go to the website, it's fairly easy."

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In just a few short months, Lozano has helped hundreds of people get through the process. Demand for her help is skyrocketing after details of the CAP program were posted on social media in December.

"It just went crazy, some people were sharing it on Instagram. At some point people were printing the flyer, posting it in the laundry, in the doctor's office. I had people tell me their social worker at the county sent them to me," said Lozano.

CAP gives eligible consumers as much as $1,200 for emissions-related repairs. Car-owners asked to cover just 20% of the cost. For more information on eligibility requirements, click here.

And that's the goal of the Liberty Hill Foundations' emPower help the spread the word about CAP and other state funded consumer programs that benefit the environment.

"I think CAP can help people get to a level where they are polluting less," said Bayonne Russell Cornier, emPower

Some experts say vehicle emissions is likely a huge but overlooked problem. One UC Davis professor says 2 to 3% of the dirtiest cars on the road are creating 30% of all vehicle emissions.

It's a step in the right direction, and a win-win for Angelenos who appreciate having one less challenge to worry about.

"This program is helping a lot of people just breathe a little bit easier," said Lozano.
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