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Helping Families Save to Help Children Succeed

Family assets, including college savings, correlate to indicators of children’s well-being. (Mando vzl/Wikimedia Commons)
Family assets, including college savings, correlate to indicators of children’s well-being. (Mando vzl/Wikimedia Commons)
January 20, 2016

HARRISBURG, Pa. - A new brief recommends changes in federal policies that would help low-income families save for their children's futures. "Investing in Tomorrow" by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, says even modest savings could improve the economic futures of millions of families.

And according to Beadsie Woo, senior associate at the Casey Foundation, there are commonsense federal policies that can create more opportunities for families to save.

"And those change the life course for their children," says Woo. "Children whose families can save will do better in school and have stronger outcomes through access to opportunities."

Those policies include creating universal savings accounts from birth seeded by small amounts of federal money, and increasing access to the federal My Retirement Account, or MyRA, program.

And Woo says expanding access to the Family Self-Sufficiency, or FSS, program could even help some low income families purchase a home.

"HUD's Family Self-Sufficiency Program provides a way for those families who are currently receiving assistance in their housing costs to begin to save, and increase their earnings," says Woo.

The brief notes that while some 3 million people are eligible, only about $7,000 are currently benefiting from FSS.

On the state level, raising the limit on assets that a family on public assistance can have would also encourage saving. And Woo points out that Pennsylvania has one of the lowest asset limits in the country.

"A family receiving public benefits could get cut off for having savings of just $1,000," she says. "Families should be able to invest in themselves and their children, and $1,000 doesn't go very far."

The brief says families need savings and assets to help their children reach their full potential.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - PA