Today, Capital Area Asset Builders (CAAB) and Citi Community Development formally announced the new Jobs & Entrepreneurship Stimulus Account (JESA) program, an accelerated Individual Development Account (IDA) savings program for individuals who agree to save $500 towards their small business or job training costs.

As Washington, DC grapples with a high 10.4 percent(1) unemployment rate and with poverty rates in some communities in the city’s Northeast and Southeast sections exceeding 30 percent,(2) there is a critical need to address common impediments to employment, including the lack of necessary education and qualifications to enter skilled labor fields. These hurdles are often compounded by the high costs of required training, certification, and equipment, creating an impenetrable barrier to employment.

The accelerated year-long JESA program, which commenced on October 1, is mitigating those costs by combining required financial and job-readiness training with a savings match. For each participant, after program requirements are met, CAAB will match up to $500 in client savings at an 8:1 rate. Participants who complete the program will be not only better equipped to manage their finances and enter the workforce, but will also be bolstered with up to $4,500 (including initial client savings) to be used for additional job training or small business development costs.

CAAB projects that the JESA program will serve 250 to 300 underemployed Washington-area residents, preparing them for jobs or entrepreneurship while reinforcing their financial capacity to purchase tools, uniforms, and other trade equipment. JESA participants must complete a rigorous program involving a minimum of 14 hours of financial education and jobs or entrepreneurship training with CAAB and a CAAB-approved partner, as well as attend financial coaching sessions as needed. Following the training period, participants will continue to receive coaching from CAAB and support through its “Financial Empowerment Circles,” which are peer-led groups of CAAB clients working towards economic self-sufficiency.

“With the JESA program, we help enrollees to execute their savings and business goals by providing hands-on support,” said Maurita Coley, Executive Director of CAAB. “While participants are saving, we give them financial education training and one-on-one financial coaching, and our partners give them entrepreneurship and job training, all to help them to succeed in their businesses, get a job, or get a better job.”

“We need to focus on providing our residents with clear pathways to self-sufficiency,” said Julius Ware, President of Ward 7 Business and Professional Association and a CAAB Board Member. “The JESA program is an innovative approach that helps Americans save and get back to work, giving them the tools needed to weather tough economic times.”

JESA makes innovative use of funds from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Assets for Independence (AFI) program. CAAB has been approved to use $600,000 in AFI funds that are maturing and would otherwise be forfeited, along with an equal amount of locally-raised matching funds to implement the JESA program. Citi Community Development is providing an additional $200,000 to support the JESA program and a thorough evaluation focusing on the opportunity for replication.

“Too many members of this community are locked out of the job market because they don’t have the training or the resources to prepare for and access job opportunities,” said Diana Meyer, Citi Community Development State Director for the Washington, DC metro area and a member of CAAB’s Board. “Citi has a record of finding innovative ways to create pathways to self-sufficiency, and the JESA program exemplifies that commitment.”

Savings accounts for participants, who must meet federal income requirements and must have some earned income, will be held at local Citibank branches.

About Capital Area Asset Builders

Capital Area Asset Builders (CAAB) expands financial inclusion in Washington, DC through direct service programs and strong partnerships with homeownership and microfinance organizations. CAAB has been a provider of Individual Development Accounts (IDAs) in the DC metro area since 1996. Over 800 successful graduates collectively have saved more than $800,000 and bought their first homes, started businesses or continued their education. Each year, CAAB organizes hundreds of volunteers to provide free tax preparation to help underserved, working families increase their financial assets through the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and other tax credits. In 2011, CAAB volunteers processed 5,695 total tax returns, 35 percent of which claimed the EITC. CAAB participates as a financial educator for Bank On DC and also offers its own financial education course — Money Management 101 – and provides one-on-one coaching. Overall, CAAB’s financial education programs served nearly 1,000 people in 2010. In 2010, CAAB organized a very successful local policy forum on asset-building in a down economy and a similar community forum is planned for April, 2012.

About Citi

Citi, the leading global financial services company, has approximately 200 million customer accounts and does business in more than 160 countries and jurisdictions. Citi provides consumers, corporations, governments and institutions with a broad range of financial products and services, including consumer banking and credit, corporate and investment banking, securities brokerage, transaction services, and wealth management.

Additional information may be found at www.citigroup.com | Twitter: @Citi | YouTube: www.youtube.com/citi | Blog: http://new.citi.com | Facebook: www.facebook.com/citi | LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/company/citi

About Citi Community Development

Citi Community Development (CCD) is leading Citi’s commitment to achieve economic empowerment and growth for underserved individuals, families and communities by expanding access to financial products and services, and building sustainable business solutions and innovative partnerships. Our focus areas include: commercial and philanthropic funding; innovative financial products and services; and collaborations with institutions that expand access to financial products and services for low-income and underserved communities.

For More Info : www.citicommunitydevelopment.com
Source : Online WSJ

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