BOSTON, Mass. — State Sen. Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton) announced on Friday that the final conference committee budget, voted on Thursday by the Senate, included funding for two anti-poverty programs that he has championed.
"Financial instability is a way of life for a large and growing number of Massachusetts families, and many more are just one lost job or serious health problem away from falling into poverty," Eldridge said. "We need to do more to help families who are struggling get on their feet."
"Research shows us that helping families develop assets—such as savings, a house or a car, or education and teaching financial literacy skills—are two of the most effective ways of helping families get and stay out of poverty," Eldridge added. "I’m pleased that the final budget includes support for these two important programs that will help more low-income Massachusetts families become financially stable."
The final budget includes $50,000 to fund the Massachusetts Individual Development Account (IDA) program, a competitive grant program that supports financial literacy training and asset development programs in communities throughout the state. The program also supports matched savings programs, which help low and moderate wage earners move towards economic self-sufficiency. They may use these IDA savings for one of three goals: to purchase their first home, to receive post-secondary education or training, or to start or expand a small business. Eldridge first passed legislation in 2006 forming the IDA program, although it has not received funding in recent years due to budget cuts.
"Matched savings programs such as the Massachusetts IDA have proven to be one of the best programs to help families increase personal savings, help build financial skills, and invest in important assets," said Margaret Miley of Acton, executive director of the MIDAS Collaborative. "This program combines incentives, financial education and access to homes, entrepreneurship and college."
The budget also includes $250,000 to support the creation of a three-year pilot program to help develop financial education classes for high school students to equip them with the knowledge and skills needed for them to make critical financial decisions. Eldridge and State Sen. Barry Finegold (D-Lawrence) had originally sponsored legislation to require that personal financial literacy be taught at all schools in the Commonwealth, and Eldridge hopes to see the programs developed in this pilot eventually expanded to all schools in the state.
"Today’s youth are bombarded with a multitude of financial options and responsibilities at an increasingly young age, yet many are ill-equipped to make informed decisions about financial matters," Eldridge said. "By teaching children the financial education basics in school, we will help them make educated financial decisions in the future, preventing future bankruptcies, foreclosures and unmanageable debt."
"I’m pleased to see this pilot program move forward and look forward to the day we can extend it to every school in the Commonwealth," Eldridge added.
The conference committee budget now goes to Gov. Deval Patrick for his signature before it becomes law.