By Lisa Dawson

Since 2007, the Northeast Oregon Economic Development District (NEOEDD) has served as the regional administrator for Oregon’s Individual Development Account (IDA) program. This program has been extremely successful for residents in Baker, Union, and Wallowa counties. It’s a renewable program at the state level, and it needs your support to continue.
 
NEOEDD offers IDAs to low- to moderate-income people to save money for a small business or education. NEOEDD staff have helped well over one hundred Northeast Oregonians plan for their future by saving with an IDA. So far NEOEDD has leveraged $540,920 in matched funds—that’s a half-million extra dollars that came into our region to support the educational and business aspirations of our neighbors. Another $144,130 is pledged to NE Oregon savers who are in the middle of the program.
 
The IDA is, essentially, a financial responsibility program. It encourages participants to develop a regular habit of saving money, and requires all savers to take money-management lessons and business savers to learn the basics of running a business in a free six-week workshop series. What’s the incentive? A match of 300 percent! IDA savers receive $3 of match for every $1 they save, up to $12,000 total. This can put a good dent into a higher education bill, or pay for the equipment, signage, computer, or other investments in getting a business off the ground. We’ve helped people in agriculture, retail, and business services—maybe even someone you know!
 
I’m proud to offer IDAs to Northeast Oregonians, and I hope you agree that this program can help someone build a better life. But the program needs your support. How can you help? Three ways: Share the program with people who might qualify for a savings-match. Contact your state legislators to support this program, or sign the petition: http://ow.ly/ITKz1. And, if you really feel like this program is special, contribute to it directly (you’ll receive a tax credit—once the program is renewed!).
 
Right now, the most important thing is to renew the program. So, please sign the petition today!
 
Lisa Dawson is the executive director of Northeast Oregon Economic Development District, which serves Baker, Union, and Wallowa counties.

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