Daily News

Jewish Family Service Receives Grant to Promote Refugee Economic Independence

SPRINGFIELD — Jewish Family Service of Western Massachusetts (JFS), in partnership with HIAS, has been awarded a four-year, $250,000-per-year Individual Development Accounts (IDA) 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, CEO of JFS.

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 mean that refugees face long-term struggles with housing, transportation, healthcare, 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 JFS will help refugees establish savings accounts; create regular saving habits; promote participation in the financial banking system; increase knowledge of financial topics, including developing a household budget, building and maintaining credit, and saving; acquire assets to build individual, family, and community resources; advance education opportunities; purchase homes; gain access to capital for microenterprise development; and foster community economic development by which the historically marginalized are now accessing resources and opportunities.