In 2014, the Kentucky Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (KYOVR) started a pilot called the Car Individual Development Account (IDA) program as an independent living service. Under this program, ten individuals with disabilities would be selected to open a savings account for the purchase of an automobile to foster more independence and community involvement. These individuals would need to save $2,000 of their own money. When the savings goal was achieved, they would receive a match of $2,000, giving them a total of $4,000 to use for the purchase of a vehicle or for a down payment.
Recently the IDA had its first participant that was able to save enough money to receive the matching funds and purchase an automobile. Randy Phillips of Murray suffered a gunshot wound to the neck in 1978 during a road rage incident. The injury made it difficult to stand or sit in one position for very long. Phillips liked to be active, but found it difficult to participate in the community without the use of reliable transportation.
He first heard about the program from Jennifer Johnson at the Center for Accessible Living. Phillips signed up immediately and was directed to KYOVR’s Sarah Richardson, coordinator for the program. To be eligible, individuals must either receive TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families), have received the EITC (Earned Income Tax Credit) on the most recent tax return and has a net worth less than $10,000 or has a household income less than or equal to 200 percent of the federal poverty level and has a net worth less than $10,000 and have a disability. Monthly financial education and car maintenance training session are required of all participants. Richardson works one on one with the individuals to ensure all requirements are met and that each person receives all training necessary for success.
In the case of Randy Phillips, he and Richardson did a savings assessment to look for areas where he might be able to save. The plan was for Phillips to save $100 a month for 20 months. The savings assessment revealed extras he could cut out. He negotiated with the local cable company to reduce his cable from $130 to $90 and planned his routes carefully to minimize trips to town to save on fuel.
With the savings measures in place, Phillips was able to save the $2000 much quicker than anticipated. With the matching IDA funds Phillips was able to purchase a 2007 Grand Caravan from Parkway Chrysler in Benton. The result had an instant impact on his social well-being. “I have two sisters in Murray that I like to visit often and another one in Memphis that I try to see once a month,” Phillips said. “With this van I feel like I am able to keep up with everyone.” Phillips does small appliance repair as well and uses the vehicle for errands and doctor’s visits. He says the simplicity of the program is the main appeal. “I would encourage everyone who is eligible to participate because it is easy; Sarah makes it easy. She doesn’t give up on you and she gives us reasons why and why not. I felt informed and supported every step of the way.”
Richardson says the key is active participation on both sides. “The participants have to be committed and engaged in the process. Randy was both,” Richardson said. “Working with Randy has been wonderful. I can see wheels turning every time we meet. He is willing and receptive to the process.
The experience has been wonderful.” Richardson also reports being very gratified by the impact of the financial education component on improving financial habits and economic well-being of participants.
As of January 1, 2015, there were six participants in Ashland, one in Morehead, one in Murray, and one in Paducah. KYOVR expects to open ten more accounts in the coming year.
KYOVR’s partners in this pilot are the Statewide Independent Living Council (SILC), two Centers for Independent Living (CIL), and the Kentucky Coalition Against Domestic Violence (KCADV). The program was piloted in two rural areas in FY 2014, Murray in far Western Kentucky and Ashland in Northeastern Kentucky. The Center for Accessible Living provided assistance with recruiting participants in the Murray area and has aided staff with case management. Independence Place in Ashland, a CIL satellite in Northeastern Kentucky, provided identical services in that area as well. The individual development accounts are managed by KCADV, which operates a similar program for domestic violence survivors. KYOVR’s Car IDA program is modeled after the one at KCADV as an independent living service.
Article Written by Jason Jones and Sarah Richardson with Vocational Rehabilitation
There’s still an opportunity to sign up. They are accepting a slot s in Calloway County.
What can a Car-IDA purchase be used for?
Car-IDA participants can use IDA matched-savings for the down payment or full payment of a vehicle and associated taxes and transfer fees. IDA funds can also be used for new car insurance.
How does the IDA program work?
Car-IDA participants must meet income eligibility guidelines and open a designated savings account at BB& T or Fifth Third Bank. Every account must be opened with a $20 deposit. VR offers a 1 to 1 match, for every dollar saved in an IDA, the dollar is matched with $1. A participant can save a total of $2,000 and will be matched with $2,000 to have a total of $4,000 to spend on a car purchase. All participating banks have agreed to waive fees and minimum balances requirements while the participant is an active IDA saver. Individuals must be an active consumer with our organization having an open goal, and also attend the monthly car maintenance or financial classes.
Applications are available at our office. For more information contact Sarah Richardson with Vocational Relocation at 1-800-372-7172