Initiative and incentive make for a powerful combination. In fact, it’s proving to be the driving force that’s enabling some low-to-moderate-income individuals in our region to accomplish more than they may have ever thought possible. The initiative, of course, comes from within. But the incentive is coming from an innovative program called the Individual Development Account (IDA).
Administered by United Way of Central Alabama’s Financial Services Partnership, which is a member of the Bold Goals Coalition’s Financial Services Network, the IDA program is designed to help lower-income individuals learn how to become financially independent as they save and work toward specific goals. Participants benefit through financial skills development, financial coaching, access to financial services and training – and a matching incentive for saving.
With the help of more than 100 partners, the IDA program is a statewide initiative that offers qualified applicants the opportunity to save up to $2,000 of earned income that is then matched with up to $4,000. Participants can use this money to purchase a first-time home, pay for college or even start a small business.
Shellie Layne, a recent participant of the program, used the money she saved to expand her business, a nonprofit called At Home Foundation, Inc., which is dedicated to helping low-to-moderate-income women and families in need. At Home Foundation helps women gain a basic understanding of home repair, provides them with tools needed around the house and replaces worn out appliances. It also assists with finding temporary or permanent shelter for families in need.
“The economy had taken a downward tumble,” said Shellie. “I was looking for an opportunity to launch my vision. The classes online, the strategies put in place to help me formalize my business plan and the accountability process the IDA program uses to make success possible made the program attractive.” She said the most positive part of her experience with the IDA program was watching her monthly bank deposits double!
Since completing the IDA program, Shellie has been hard at work building her business. As a result, the UAB Community Health Innovation Awards (CHIA) program recently awarded At Home Foundation, Inc. a $15,000 grant for its WILAH (What I Learned At Home) project, which will serve to promote self-sufficiency among 24 single, low-income mothers during two 12-week sessions.
“The IDA program is phenomenal,” said Shellie. “This program, along with much prayer, gave me wings to soar and changed the trajectory of my life. Now I have the opportunity to help others!”