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A Savings Boost for 3,000 Oregonians' Goals, Dreams

PHOTO: Martin Martinez shares his financial fitness tips in workshops for teens at College Dreams. Martinez is a graduate of the Oregon IDA Initiative. Photo courtesy of Martinez.
PHOTO: Martin Martinez shares his financial fitness tips in workshops for teens at College Dreams. Martinez is a graduate of the Oregon IDA Initiative. Photo courtesy of Martinez.
April 22, 2014

MEDFORD, Ore. - Almost $9 million is being divvied up among nine nonprofit organizations in Oregon to pass along to people who prove they can manage their personal finances and save for the future. The Oregon Individual Development Account (IDA) Initiative provides matching money to people of low or moderate income who meet a big financial savings goal for a house, job training or a small business.

For Martin Martinez of Grants Pass, it was a college education. He managed to save $2,000 in a year-and-a-half – not an easy feat for a guy in his early 20s.

"It did seem kind of rough that I had to set aside some of my money. It's not an instant gratification, where you get your paycheck at the end of the month and say, 'Boom! I have all this money, I'm going to spend it.' It's learning how to set it aside so you can do bigger things with it," Martinez said.

Today, Martinez is the first in his family to graduate from college, and he's using what he learned in the IDA program to teach other young people, through a nonprofit group called "College Dreams." Martinez says he's now saving to buy a home.

In southern Oregon, NeighborWorks Umpqua gets about 250 people a year started as IDA participants. Executive director Betty Tamm says some of their savings goals might be surprising.

"We've expanded uses a little bit, so that you can do things that make you job-ready – tools for the trade. We can even help people get their teeth fixed, because sometimes teeth are a barrier to employment, not only just in terms of appearance but because of the pain," Tamm explained.

The Oregon IDA Initiative raises its matching money through private donors, who receive a state tax credit as an incentive. This year, the program is 15 years old and has about 3,000 participants. Next year, the state legislature will have to decide whether to renew the tax credit for those who donate funds to the program.

More information is online at www.oregonidainitiative.org.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR