The United Way of the Bluegrass has unveiled a program that matches savings for qualified people to help them buy homes, go back to school or start their own businesses.
The Back on Track program, which began in January, asks those enrolled to save up to $2,000. The United Way will then match the savings 2-1, so qualified people who enroll can wind up with up to $6,000.
"We have all kind of been knocked off track by the terrible economy," said Michael Burke, financial stability specialist for the United Way. "For a lot of people, it was through no fault of their own. ...
"We feel this is a good way to help people get back on the road to financial stability."
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People whose incomes qualify them for the program must deposit savings in what's called individual development accounts, which are administered locally by Traditional Bank, said Burke. The quickest the savings can be accumulated is six months and the maximum time is two years, though a one-year extension is offered.
Participants must take 10 hours of financial literacy classes and eight hours of classes specific to their goal of owning a home, enhancing their educations or starting a small business.
The United Way is hosting one such financial literacy course Thursday. It is open to anyone, not just those in the program.
The program is in partnership with the state Department of Financial Institutions during America Saves Week.
Once the program participants' savings are matched, the total amount is issued as a check to a third party for the purpose the person chose.
The funding for Back on Track comes from a federal grant the organization received, said communications coordinator Townsend Miller.
Miller said the organization hopes to raise awareness of the program by referring clients of its free tax preparation service to the program.
The United Way of the Bluegrass has enough funding for 425 individuals or families. Six people are enrolled and eight more are qualified, Burke said.
"We're expecting there to be more applications coming in around the middle of March, once everyone's had the opportunity to get their taxes finished," Burke said.