Press release from Mayor Bowser:
DC Mayor Muriel Bowser today announced a $1.3 million investment to relaunch DC Opportunity Accounts, a 4:1 matched savings program that will help qualified District residents potentially save up to $7,500. Those funds can be used to help pay for a variety of expenses, including education, first-time home purchases, small business development, and even retirement.
“We know that when residents have the financial freedom and flexibility to save, they succeed,” said Mayor Bowser. “The DC Opportunity Accounts Program empowers residents to pursue their goals of going to college, starting a business, or purchasing a home, which in turn can provide them with a pathway to the middle class.”
The DC Opportunity Accounts program is managed by the District of Columbia Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking (DISB) and is administered by its contractor, Capital Area Asset Builders (CAAB). DISB budgeted $850,000 in Fiscal Years 2019 and 2020 for the program. FY19 dollars were matched with $350,000 from the A. James & Alice B. Clark Foundation and $100,000 from Wells Fargo. CAAB will seek private funders to match the FY20 dollars.
“Public-private partnerships like the one that makes the Opportunity Accounts program possible are creative ways to ensure that District residents are able to reach their financial goals and realize their dreams,” said DISB Commissioner Stephen Taylor.
DC Opportunity Accounts works as follows: Qualified residents make regular deposits of up to $1,500 in a savings account for a maximum of 18 months. DISB matches the deposits 2:1, with private funders like Wells Fargo and the Clark Foundation also matching the deposits 2:1. For example, participants who save $1,500 will get a match of $6,000, growing their contribution to $7,500. The funds can be used toward investments in college, continuing education, job training, first-time home purchases, and small business development. The funds may also be used to pay for medical emergencies and to help leverage the cost of retirement.
To qualify for the program, applicants need to meet specific requirements:
- Be a District resident.
- Have a maximum annual household income of $54,250, for households with one adult and $62,000 for two adults living in the same household.
- Have earned income.
- Have less than $10,000 in net assets (excluding a primary home and one vehicle).
Participants must contribute to the account for at least six months and take part in money management and asset-specific training before they can make a matched withdrawal. Participants who plan to use the matched savings to buy homes must qualify as first-time homebuyers.
Since 1997, more than 2,300 individuals have enrolled in similar CAAB matched savings programs. As of September 2018, nearly 87 percent—2,000 individuals—reached their savings goals with a total of $5.6 million in combined contributions and matched funds.