Economic Empowerment Program
A lack of financial stability is one of the biggest deterrents for women who are considering leaving an abusive relationship. Leaving the economic security of a home, income, and benefits is more than many survivors of domestic violence can fathom – especially if they have children. In 2002, KCADV’s Economic Empowerment Program took root when the directors of KCADV’s 15 member programs identified helping survivors become economically self-sufficient as a top priority.
The first step was creating an Individual Development Account, or IDA, program. IDAs are restricted savings accounts designated for a specific asset goal. Participants in KCADV’s Classic IDA program pledge to save for a home, education, or small business, and their savings are matched 4:1. As of September 2016, about 132 account holders from KCADV member programs and community partners are receiving financial education and one-on-one financial coaching while they save for a long-term asset. Nearly 503 participants have used their funds to purchase a home, fund post-secondary education, or start or expand a small business. The Car IDA program helps domestic violence survivors purchase reliable transportation to improve employment and housing opportunities, by matching savings dollar-for-dollar up to $2000. Approximately 64 survivors are currently enrolled, and 135 have purchased cars with their savings and earned match. At the start of 2016, KCADV introduced a new Matched Savings IDA program that provides a 1:1 match up to $200 for survivors to establish an emergency savings account or use towards other expenses.
KCADV offers a microloan program that was developed in 2009 to help survivors establish or improve credit and reduce debt as they move toward financial stability. Microloans help individuals establish or improve credit when paid on time and used in conjunction with at least one other open and active line of credit. As of September 2016, 122 loans have been repaid. Participant success ranges from establishing credit to improving credit scores by as much as 170 points.
KCADV also created the Economic Empowerment Corps (EEC) in 2009 through the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) and the Kentucky Commission on Community Volunteerism and Service (KCCVS). The Economic Empowerment Corps is a statewide AmeriCorps State program and is the only Corps in Kentucky focused on financial empowerment for survivors of domestic violence and their children.
In 2011, KCADV opened 48 units of supportive housing for survivors of domestic violence in Louisville, Morehead, Paducah, and Murray. KCADV Homes units were funded with tax credits issued by the Kentucky Housing Corporation. Residents of KCADV Homes units have access to the full range of economic empowerment and other supportive services offered by KCADV member programs, including one-on-one support from experienced advocates trained to help survivors become financially stable.
In 2014, KCADV entered into an innovative partnership with the Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS) to offer IDAs and other economic empowerment services to students in the Ready-to-Work (RTW) program. The RTW program is designed to help TANF recipients complete post-secondary education by providing work-study opportunities that meet TANF work requirements and support services that encourage them to succeed. “Completion” IDAs will help students complete associate’s degrees, while reducing their student loan burden. KCADV won the Art of Excellence in Collaboration Award from the Center for Nonprofit Excellence in October 2015 for pioneering this partnership.
KCADV provides free tax preparation services, under an IRS grant awarded to United Way of the Bluegrass (UWBG), for survivors at its 15 member programs and Ready-to-Work students at Kentucky Community and Technical Colleges. KCADV also operates a tax site in Lexington’s Parkside neighborhood, which serves many immigrant taxpayers. In 2016, KCADV prepared 648 tax returns for low- to moderate-income households, earning Kentucky families nearly $1 million in federal refunds. KCADV tax preparers helped low-income taxpayers claim nearly $500,000 in Earned Income Tax Credits, for an average of $2,000 per taxpayer.