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Charity hopes to put house, tuition money in pockets





Organizers of a Hutchinson-based charity are trying to establish a new program in Ellis County that would help families achieve long-term financial goals.

Creating Assets, Savings & Hope, a program launched by Interfaith Housing Services Inc., provides 2:1 matching funds to clients wanting to buy their first home, improve their current home, start a small business or earn a college degree.

"It's helping so many households, and the thing about it is this is not your typical handout program where, 'Here's some money; go live well,' " said program director Lorna Moore. "We are really helping people to pull themselves out of not just poverty, but this is for middle-income households as well."

Qualifying clients must be within 200 percent of the federal poverty level, which amounts to $47,100 for a family of four. Participants must commit to saving at least $20 per month, and they are given $2 for every $1 they save.

The maximum amount of matching funds depends on what the client is saving for. Clients saving to buy their first home, for example, can save up to $3,250, resulting in a total account of $9,750. A total of $6,000 can be attained for home repairs and $9,000 for college tuition.

Participants are required to complete at least six hours of financial education and four life skills workshops, which address topics such as planning meals and automotive repair.

When requirements are met, clients can open a joint savings account with IHS at a local bank. Withdrawals from the account cannot be made without approval until they are ready to make their big purchase.

The program is available in 69 Kansas counties. Organizers have been trying to establish the program in Ellis County for the past few years, but only have one local client so far, Moore said.

"One of the most difficult things we have had to overcome with this program is people fear that this is too good to be true," she said. "But this one is the real deal. There is no catch here."

CASH has proven popular in other parts of the state, with 75 households saving to purchase their first homes, 74 students using the money for college, six clients saving to open a business and 35 making home repairs.

The CASH program operates under the Kansas Individual Development Account tax credit program. IHS receives $500,000 annually in state tax credits, then matches the grant through donations and a federal grant, all amounting to $1 million each year, she said.

For more information or to apply for the program, call IHS at (877) 447-5927 or visit www.ihs-housing.org.