OnTrack Financial Education and Counseling’s SECURE Matched Savings program was awarded $200,000 over two years to offer approximately 200 low-income people support in establishing emergency savings accounts. Participants contribute $15 to $30 per month to a savings account and are eligible for a match of up to $540, after six months of consecutive savings, for a potential total savings of $720.
CFWNC funded a successful pilot project at OnTrack in 2016 and a two-year grant in 2017 that funded expansion into three rural counties. As a result of this sustained investment, OnTrack has a strong process for programming and referrals for SECURE. The main qualifier for participation is income: SECURE is available to people with household incomes between 30% and 80% of Area Median Income (AMI); for example, a family of four qualifies if household income is between $25,750 and $53,100.
As of the end of January, there are 133 people currently enrolled, some of whom will graduate from the program in March. The program is available in Buncombe, Haywood, Henderson and McDowell counties. Since inception, 325 graduates have built an emergency fund, functioning budget and monthly savings habit. There are projected to be 521 graduates by mid-September.
The numbers are impressive; however, hearing directly from a graduate is powerful.
Brittany Ferguson started working with OnTrack in the summer of 2018. At that time, she thought she couldn’t save living from paycheck to paycheck. In under a year, she and her four-year-old son moved out of public housing, and she transitioned from a part-time job to a salaried position with benefits. She regularly reviews her budget and takes proactive steps to deal with her debt. She continues to contribute to her SECURE savings account, even after she graduated and received the match. “I thought I couldn’t save—not even $1, but SECURE gave me the tools to save,” she said. Brittany’s next goals include getting her GED and becoming a Habitat for Humanity homeowner.