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Connecticut Individual Development Account Initiative (IDA)
IDA Newsletter - February, 2005

CTIDA is an e-mail newsletter containing news, information and more about Individual Development Account (IDA) Programs.  It is produced by CTE under the auspices of the Connecticut Department of Labor (DOL).  To subscribe or unsubscribe, please send an e-mail to mhawe@ctecap.org.

February 19, 2005

Welcome to CTIDA, an e-mail newsletter about Individual Development Account Programs in Connecticut.  We hope that these communications will be a useful source of information to those at all levels of involvement in IDAs -- from the planning stage to experienced practitioners, including program providers, financial institutions and all partners in between -- and also serve as a way to publicize the successes of our state's IDA Programs.  We look for your input and feedback as to what will be useful to you as we continue to improve this newsletter to meet your needs.  For comments, questions or suggestions, contact Marie Hawe at CTE, 34 Woodland Ave., Stamford, CT 06902.  Phone: (203) 352-4851, Fax: (203) 352-2972, e-mail: mhawe@ctecap.org.

IN THIS ISSUE OF CTIDA:

  1. Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit

  2. New Assets for Independence RFP

  3. Latest News from Washington

  4. Ideas For Asset-Specific Training For Participants Saving For Post-Secondary Education

  5. Financial Education and Asset-Specific Training Resources

  6. IDA Success Story

  7. Sharing Effective Practices

  8. Upcoming Event: IDA Affinity Group


Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit

Tax time is fast approaching and now is the opportunity for IDA programs to re-emphasize to participants the importance of filing for the EITC and, if applicable, the Child Tax Credit.

For the Earned Income Tax Credit, the maximum amount of income that you can earn and still get the credit has increased. You may be able to take the credit if:

  • You have more than one qualifying child and your earned income was less than $34,458 ($35,458 if married filing jointly),

  • You have one qualifying child and your earned income was less than $30,338 ($31,338 if married filing jointly), or

  • You do not have a qualifying child and your earned income was less than $11,490 ($12,490 if married filing jointly).

With the Child Tax Credit you may be able to reduce the federal income tax you owe by $1,000 for each qualifying child under the age of 17.  A qualifying child for this credit is someone who:

  • is claimed as your dependent;

  • was under age 17 at the end of 2003;

  • is your son, daughter, adopted child, grandchild, stepchild or eligible foster child, your sibling, stepsibling or their descendant; and

  • is a U.S. citizen or resident.

The credit is limited if your modified adjusted gross income is above a certain amount. For more information go to http://www.irs.gov.

Many agencies operating IDA programs also offer free income tax preparation assistance to their clients.  Some are affiliated with the VITA Program.  The VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) Program offers free tax help to low- and moderate-income ($36,000 and below) people who cannot prepare their own tax returns. Volunteers sponsored by various organizations receive training to help prepare basic tax returns in communities across the country. VITA sites are generally located at community and neighborhood centers, libraries, schools, shopping malls, and other convenient locations. Most locations also offer free electronic filing. To locate the nearest VITA site, call 1-800-829-1040.

The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities offers a free Outreach Kit to help your agency promote both the EITC and the Child Tax Credit.  Go to http://www.cbpp.org for more information.

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NEW ASSETS FOR INDEPENDENCE REQUEST FOR PROPOSALS

The AFI program has developed a new grant application and review process.  Starting this year, the call for applications will be a standing announcement – applications will be accepted anytime throughout the year.  The AFI grant review will be conducted three times a year:  March 15, June 15 and November 1.  Grants will be awarded throughout the year.  The following is a useful link for those planning to apply for AFI funding:

AFI Project Builder: Guide to Planning an AFI Project

For more information, contact the Office of Community Services, Assets for Independence Program, at 202-401-4626 or e-mail  afiprogram@acf.hhs.gov.

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LATEST NEWS FROM WASHINGTON

AFI Reauthorization  -- AFI has not been reauthorized by Congress yet, and will operate under a continuing resolution as it did last year.  With the new Congress, and changes in Committee Chairs and Congressional staff, the process for reauthorization has to start all over again.  This has not stopped OCS from issuing a new RFP for funding under AFI (See Item #2, above). 

The Savings For Working Families Act (SWFA) – SWFA, a tax credit proposal to create hundreds of thousands of IDAs, stalled in the last Congress, and has been re-introduced this year.  SWFA is part of the CARE Act.  There is some hope that bi-partisan support in both the House and Senate  will break last year’s logjam and permit the tax credit to become law.  The CARE Act has been included in the Senate Republicans’ top 10 legislative priorities for the year.  The key to passing the Act lies in the House-Senate Conference Committee. 

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IDEAS FOR ASSET-SPECIFIC TRAINING FOR PARTICIPANTS SAVING FOR POST-SECONDARY EDUCATION

IDA Program Operators sometimes wonder what topics to cover in asset-specific training or one-on-one counseling for those participants who are saving for post-secondary education.  Here are some suggestions: 

  • Applying to colleges

  • Applying for scholarships

  • Available scholarships

  • The Financial Aid process

  • Study skills

  • Interviewing skills

  • Time management

  • Education planning

  • Career and vocational planning

  • Budgeting

  • Projected college expenses

  • Basic computer skills

  • Challenges that may arise at college

  • Process for accessing your IDA match

Some of these topics can be addressed by a Financial Aid Officer or member of the counseling staff from a local community college or university. Others are conducive to a discussion session among your participants.  Another idea is to take your participants who are saving for post-secondary education on a tour of one or more local colleges.

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FINANCIAL EDUCATION AND ASSET-SPECIFIC TRAINING RESOURCES

  1. Consumer Action, a non-profit agency based in San Francisco, has developed a series of booklets and tip sheets on a wide range of Financial Education topics, including:  bankruptcy, EITC, talking to teens about money, credit, banking services and others.  Most of these materials are available in Spanish and English and can be downloaded free from their website:  http://www.consumer-action.org/.

  2. The Institute for Social and Economic Development (ISED) has developed several IDA Asset Tip Sheets that can be downloaded from their website:  http://www.ised.org/AboutISED/Publications.asp.  Scroll down to “Individual Development Accounts” and you will see the list of Tip Sheets available for topics such as:  homeownership, education, micro enterprise and vehicles. 

  3. The Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation and the LISC Center for Home Ownership have released a report entitled "A Practitioner’s Guide to Combating Predatory Lending.”   This report looks at the issues surrounding predatory lending, then focuses on the tools and strategies that community organizations and other groups have used to combat such lending in their communities.  Free registration is required to view the entire document, available at:  http://www.lisc.org/resources/2004/06/practitioners_7027.shtml.   

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IDA SUCCESS STORY

Having lived at no address for more than twelve months over the past five years, Lanna Akers moved to New Haven, and realized that it was time to settle in one place. After arriving in September 2003 from South Texas, Lanna fell in love with the urban fabric and vibrancy of New Haven. She always dreamed of owning her own home and began to assess what it would take to purchase a home in the area. Given her limited financial situation, compounded by six months of unem- ployment, Lanna believed homeownership would never be more than a far-off dream. 

Fortunately, Lanna heard about Empower New Haven’s Individual Development Account Program, administered by Neighborhood Housing Services of New Haven, and the reality of acquiring a home became less financially daunting. Having no direct access to withdraw funds made it easy for Akers to regularly save because she was not tempted to impulsively spend and continually saw the balance increase. In February 2004, Akers committed to saving $50 per week and deposited a significant portion from her 2003 federal tax return into her IDA account. When the rehabilitated house she was interested in became available much sooner than expected, Akers trimmed her budget and was able to increase her deposits to reach her full savings goal by the time of the closing.  

In August, Akers became a proud homeowner in an historic home in one of New Haven’s ten Empowerment Zones. She believes that buying a house in an Empowerment Zone is a great long-term investment, not only for her personally, but also for the community. She is committed to not only maintaining and improving her property, but to becoming an integrated part of the Dwight neighborhood. Thanks to the money she saved in her IDA and the matching funds from Empower New Haven, in one year’s time Akers has more than just a home—she has a future.

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SHARING EFFECTIVE PRACTICES

No one knows better how to run a successful IDA Program than those of you who  do it every day.  We’d like to hear your ideas and to use this newsletter as a way to share effective practice tips among IDA programs.   

The first topic we would like to solicit effective practice tips on is:  Ways to Motivate Your Participants to Save.  If any programs have found tried and true ways to keep participants on track with their savings plans and goals, please send them to Marie Hawe at mhawe@ctecap.org.  We will print the best ones in the next newsletter.

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UPCOMING EVENT: IDA AFFINITY GROUP

Look for an announcement soon with details on our first IDA Affinity Group meeting for 2005.  The topic will be:  “Preparing Your IDA Participants for Purchasing Their Assets.”  Planning for asset purchase is something that programs need to start thinking about in the early stages of their program.  We are putting together a panel of experts to attend our Affinity Group and discuss this important subject. 

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The CTIDA e-newsletter is produced  by CTE under the auspices of the Connecticut Department of Labor.  To subscribe or unsubscribe, or to receive a printed version of this newsletter, please e-mail Marie Hawe at mhawe@ctecap.org.
 

Connecticut Individual Development Account Initiative (IDA)


200 Folly Brook Boulevard, Wethersfield, CT 06109 / Phone: 860-263-6000

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