in collaboration with Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity
Allow people on government assistance to build assets
From: Jo Ann T., St. Paul, MN
Many who are experiencing poverty are excluded from being able to build assets, such as savings accounts, vehicles, burial plots, life insurance policies, stocks and bonds. Those who rely on government assistance in the form of medical assistance, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Minnesota Family Investment Program (MFIP), food stamps, Social Security or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) are not allowed to build any type of nest egg for themselves. If a participant in any of these programs has an asset over the amount allowed, they must first "spend it down," in other words, sell it and live off the money before they can become eligible for the program.
I train low-income community members in becoming leaders in the community, so that they can become change agents in the area of poverty. In a recent class that I was teaching, we discussed building a small nest egg while on Social Security Disability. My students' idea was to allow people to save two times their monthly grant per year. So someone who receives $500 per month could save up to $1000 per year. They could continue to build on this each year, but never exceed more than an additional $1000 per year. My students said the would use these savings to make car repairs or even pay their utility bills after a cold winter.