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25 for 25: Individual Development Accounts


We are commemorating our 25th Anniversary with 25 posts about our history and accomplishments between now and the Spotlight Gala on September 15.  Join us for a celebration of Voices for Children and all of the organizations, lawmakers, and individuals who have supported our work on behalf of children.  For details, visit voicesforchildren.com/spotlight-gala.

Image by CC-Attribution license, courtesy of 401Kcalculator.org

Looking at current data on poverty trends, it’s clear to see that poverty is a growing problem.  If there is good news on this front, it’s that the last couple of decades have brought new research and ideas on how to address poverty.  What people in poverty really need, the argument goes, is not just temporary help, but a permanent way out.

One way to do that is to help people attain assets, like a home, a business or an education.  An education can help get a better job and earn more income.  A business can provide growing income to support a family.  A home can increase in value and provide equity to borrow against.  These assets can help move people out of poverty permanently, but can be difficult for lower income families to attain.

Micheal Sherradan, founder of the Center for Social Development, proposed and idea in the 1990s to help lower income families attain assets through something called Individual Development Accounts or IDAs.  IDAs are a savings account that provides matching funds drawn from a variety of private and public sources.  Low-income participants typically save for a designated time period for a specific asset.  Most IDA programs also include a mandatory financial education component.

Today, there are several programs on the federal level and in states that offer funding to provide these accounts.  Over the years, IDA programs have shown success in moving lower income participants toward greater financial stability.

In 2009, we started to look at the work that was happening around the country on IDAs and saw the need for more programs here in Nebraska.  Voices for Children was able to use some resources to bring in a national expert to consult on establishing more IDA programs in Nebraska.  We then worked with a coalition of interested partners to apply for a federal grant to fund some of the work in the state.The federal grant was given to Community Action of Nebraska to start and fund additional IDA programs throughout the state.  Today, IDA programs are operating in several communities and interest in these programs continues to grow.

In the coming years, we hope to find ways to create more opportunities for more families to participate in these programs across the state as as effective pathway out of poverty.


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