Jewish Family Service of Western Mass in partnership with HIAS has been awarded a four-year $250,000 per year IDA (Individual Development Accounts) program grant from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. The IDA program is a matched savings program that assists individuals and families to save toward an asset that will increase financial independence. Refugees can save for one of four assets—to start or support a business, to purchase a vehicle to obtain and maintain employment and education, to increase capital to purchase a home, or to invest in post-secondary education or training. Individuals can save up to $2,000 and households can save up to $4,000, and have their savings matched dollar for dollar. The IDA program provides asset specific training, financial literacy classes, and technical assistance to increase participants’ capacity to increase self-sufficiency, become financially stable, and achieve their savings goals.
“JFS is honored to have received this grant for our New Americans in the area. The ability to have this program allows us to offer unparalleled support for economic independence and integration to all qualified New Americans in the area,” said Maxine Stein, JFS CEO.
Economic independence is the greatest challenge faced by refugees in the U.S. The lack of sustaining income; career trajectories; access to financial education, assets, and capital; and benefits that come with entry and middle-level jobs often means that refugees face long-term struggles with housing, transportation, health care, language acquisition, and health. The challenge of economic integration is underscored by limited access to credit, banking, and networks that can further economic independence.
By enrolling participants in IDA, HIAS and JFSWM will help refugees: (1) establish savings accounts, (2) create regular saving habits, (3) promote participation in the financial banking system, (4) increase knowledge of financial topics including developing a household budget, building and maintaining credit, and saving, (5) acquire assets to build individual, family, and community resources, (6) advance education opportunities (7) purchase homes, (8) gain access to capital for microenterprise development, and (9) foster community economic development where the historically marginalized are now accessing resources and opportunities.
Keith Combs, HIAS Program Manager, Economic Inclusion, shared “HIAS is excited to expand this matched savings program to our partner Jewish Family Service of Western Massachusetts and the clients they serve. This program provides an opportunity to build assets and knowledge that is vital to full economic integration.”
JFS has been resettling refugees fleeing their homelands in partnership with HIAS (formerly the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society) and the State Department for over 50 years. In the past five years JFS resettled over 500 refugees from around the world to Western Mass—their new home. Over 30 staff work directly with the refugee “New American” population, the majority of whom are from communities that JFS resettles and has resettled. JFS successfully implements over a dozen grants and programs to support resettled refugees up to five years after their arrival to the US, with outcomes that include daycare and pre-k placement for young children, mental health support for refugee families, elder access to mainstream services, and support for youth in and out of school.
Founded in 1881 to protect and assist Jews fleeing persecution in Eastern Europe, HIAS has touched the life of nearly every Jewish family in America and now welcomes all who flee persecution. HIAS’s U.S. network of 17 affiliate partners in 11 states provides safety, stability, and advancement through a mix of vital services.