Opening doors to the American dream The DO-IDA project is funded by the federal office of refugee resettlement. Thanks to the success of our first 5 years of the IDA project, from 2007 to 2012, we have been awarded funding for DO-IDA II. We look forward to helping more refugees reach their goal in attending school, opening a new business, owning a home or buying a car.
An Individual Development Account (IDA) is a matched savings program. For every dollar that you save, the program will match a dollar. You can save up to $2,000. Starting six months into the program, you may begin to use your funds.
Your savings can be used to purchase:
Vehicle (up to $1,000)
To be eligible for an IDA, you must
Be a refugee or asylee at least 18 years old
200% or less of Federal Income Poverty Level
Not have assets worth more than $10,000
Have been in the U.S. for less than 5 years to save for a house or small business
Have been in the U.S. for less than 3 years to save for education or a vehicle
Before a purchase can be made, the IDA participant must fulfill these program requirements:
Graduate from financial literacy classes
Complete a non-profit sponsored WSHFC (Washington State Housing Finance Commission) certified homebuyer education workshop
Meet with the IDA team at the Diocese of Olympia Counselors will help create a homeownership action plan (detailing budget issues, relevant credit repair, etc.) and will determine a need for further sessions. The initial counseling session should take place as close as possible to when the participant starts saving, so budgeting can take place before the participant is ready to buy.
Reach savings goal
You can also attend free financial skills training classes and learn how to manage your money!
Take a Look at Our IDA 2012-2014 Numbers:
Total Number of IDA Accounts: 128
Amount Obligated for Purchases: $234,000
Amount Spent to Date on Purchase of Business, Educational or Home Ownership Goals: $130,000
IDA Success Stories
For young people like Abel, a 24-year old refugee from Eritrea, the prospect of starting from scratch in a new society on his own hit him suddenly. “You know, I think all people want to make success. But we struggle, all of us do. That was what I realized right away. That maybe I needed a little help,” Abel said.
Thankfully for these energetic newcomers, the Refugee Resettlement Office (RRO) provides support through Individual Development Accounts (or IDAs). IDAs are like starter kits for low-income working refugees who are saving money to build assets – home purchases, business start-ups, or post-secondary or technical degrees. Provided they complete a financial literacy course and a savings plan agreement, participants will receive a one-to-one grant match of their savings that is committed toward their asset-building goal.
Despite working full-time at SeaTac International Airport – a two hour daily bus commute from his residence in Shoreline, Washington – Abel showed a willingness to challenge himself further and reach for new goals. Last year, he signed up for evening classes at Seattle’s Evergreen Truck Driving School, which provides would-be freight operators with hands on training to pass the Washington state Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) exam. By signing up for the Diocese of Olympia’s IDA program, Abel got the opportunity to receive a grant that covered half the cost of tuition for the six-month long course.
“The class was very helpful. And it prepared me for what I needed to do next,” Abel said, smiling. “Start my own business.
Completing his IDA account gave Abel important benefits. For one, finishing the CDL course gave him the knowledge and skills he needed to succeed in a career in freight operation. Second, the financial discipline that he earned through completing his IDA savings plan gave him convenient entry into the diocesan micro-enterprise loan program. Since 2003, the RRO has managed a diocesan loan fund that, with help from RRO, allows qualified applicants to borrow micro-loans towards start-up businesses. Abel eagerly completed the required business planning coursework, credit counseling sessions, and market research offered by diocesan staff, becoming eligible for a $5,000 loan. Within a month of finishing his CDL course, he had already managed to get his trucking business off the ground, using his loan to invest in an FC2 Freightliner truck.
“I found a for-hire company in Seattle. So I’m ready to work for the Port (of Seattle), and anyone else,” Abel says laughing, standing beside his new truck.
While Abel’s example shows what great feats can be accomplished through an individual’s initiative to succeed, he is quick to give credit to the support he received from others. “All of the classes I took (at the Diocese of Olympia) really helped me – helped me to understand financial problems and the business world, and to spend my money the right way. And of course the grant, which gave me my education. So I’m just very thankful for all of the help I can get.”
For more information on the programs offered by the Refugee Resettlement Office visithttp://www.dioceserroseattle.org/ or call (206) 323-3152, or email email@example.com. In addition to the IDA and micro-enterprise programs mentioned above, the RRO also offers programs and information on resettlement, immigration, English as a Second Language classes, employment assistance, citizenship classes, business training, financial literacy training, and STARS training.
More than any other asset, home ownership provides consumers with a sense of both accomplishment and relief. Owning a home can pay dividends financially as a long-term investment, but more importantly, can serve as an anchor for families who have spent years searching for stability and a sense of community.
With these goals in mind, the Diocese of Olympia has served the refugee and asylee community of the greater Puget Sound area with home purchase Individual Development Accounts (IDAs). IDAs are small grants that connect low-income participants with six-month savings accounts and free financial literacy tutoring, in partnership with the King County Housing Authority (kcha.org). Capped at $4,000 per family, these funds can be just the push working families need to become responsible home owners and financially-educated members of their community. Issa Kamil, a refugee from Iraq and participant in the Diocese’s home purchase program, illustrates this drive to succeed like none other.
Originally from Iraq, Issa and his wife and two children fled his home country in 2008 when the conflict around him became too much for his family to endure. “Like any refugee, you’re not wanting to leave your home. But you must move on when it gets too hard,” Issa says with his wife and children beside him. Since completing his IDA savings in October 2012, his family has already seen a number of fortunate developments arise.
Issa maintains a monthly budget thanks to his financial literacy training, and has found hundreds of dollars in monthly savings since purchasing a townhouse in Everett, which has ended up being more cost-efficient than the rental apartment his family previously lived in. In addition, his wife Shirook is in the process of becoming a licensed family home childcare provider, and is on a clear path to licensure now that they no longer live in an above-ground apartment complex. “The children,” Issa says while laughing, “are just happy to have more space.”
Without hearing his story, you might mistake Issa and his family for any of the other workaday Americans calling this pristine block of townhomes in Everett home. The children seem happy and at peace in their new home, having water fights in the yard and taking walks with their parents to a nearby park in the summer. “Right now this place makes sense for us. We were happy in our apartment, but we actually love it here,” Issa says, smiling.