"Many domestic violence survivors are low income and eligible for AFI services. AFI projects can educate them to manage money, learn to save, increase their assets, and ultimately improve the economic strength of their families."
Assets for Independence: A Factsheet for Domestic Violence Service Providers
Building Assets for Survivors of Domestic Violence is a new federal government initiative to help domestic violence survivors manage their money, build savings and to find the most effective strategies for helping them achieve greater financial independence and strength. It is a joint effort between the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Community Services (OCS), which runs the Assets for Independence (AFI) program, and the Family and Youth Services Bureau’s Office of Family Violence Prevention, which supports a significant portion of the nation’s domestic violence services infrastructure.
AFI projects help low-income individuals improve their economic status by providing financial education and access to special matched savings accounts known as Individual Development Accounts (IDAs). As domestic violence service providers focus on helping survivors – both those who seek to or have left their abusers—gain financial ground, AFI projects can be an important resource. Many domestic violence survivors are low income and eligible for AFI services. AFI projects can educate them to manage money, learn to save, increase their assets, and ultimately improve the economic strength of their families.
This fact sheet provides a basic overview of the AFI program, and links for finding more information on AFI, how AFI can serve domestic violence survivors, and the Building Assets for Survivors of Domestic Violence initiative.
What Organizations Operate AFI Projects?
Launched in 1999, AFI provides grants to nonprofits and public agencies such as Community Action Agencies, United Ways, credit unions, and housing authorities, to run IDA programs. To receive AFI funds, organizations must raise an equal amount of money from non-federal sources. AFI projects operate in 49 states.
How Can Domestic Violence Survivors Benefit from AFI Projects?
AFI projects provide financial education (including budgeting, saving, credit use, debt management, and tax advice) and matching funds when savers make asset purchases using savings in IDAs.
IDAs are a central feature of the AFI program. They are matched savings accounts that help low-income individuals save for a specified goal within a defined time frame (usually within 1 to 4 years). Savings can be used for three purposes: buying a first home, starting a small business, or attending post-secondary education. AFI grantees often sponsor training related to a specific asset purchase goal. The match rate is the amount that the IDA program contributes for each dollar that a participant saves. This rate varies by program and can range anywhere from $1 for every $1 of earnings saved to $8 for every $1 dollar saved. (About three-quarters of programs offer $2 to $1 or $3 to $1 matches.)
For example, if a program has a $3 match rate, each time a participant deposits $25 in their IDA account, an additional $75 in matching funds would be allocated for their savings. When the accountholder is ready, both the savings and the match are used to purchase the asset. By leveraging saved dollars against matched dollars, individuals are able to grow their savings more quickly and be successful in purchasing an asset with long-term return potential.
Participants can also make unmatched withdrawals for certain immediate emergency needs (medical expenses, avoiding eviction or foreclosure, and vital living expenses following a job loss), but must reimburse their accounts for the full amount withdrawn within 12 months to remain eligible for the program.
Who is Eligible to Participate in an AFI Project?
To be eligible for participation, an individual must:
Children old enough to have earned income and purchase assets can be eligible to participate.
What Are Characteristics of Past AFI Participants?
AFI participants are:
What Have Participants Accomplished?
Federal government data show that 49,932 IDAs were opened between Fiscal Year 1999 and 2007 and a total of $38 million in earned income was deposited.
During these years, participants made 14,658 asset purchases, the most common of which was a first home (61 percent), followed by capitalization of a small business (20 percent) and post-secondary education (19 percent).
A recent evaluation of AFI found that AFI savers were significantly more likely to be homeowners, own a business, or pursue post-secondary education than similar low-income families who did not participate in an AFI project.
Where Can I Find More Information about AFI?
To learn more about Building Assets for Survivors of Domestic Violence, visit the AFI Resource Center at idaresources.acf.hhs.gov. You can also call the AFI Resource Center at 1-866-778-6037 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
More information on the AFI program is available at www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/ocs/afi/, including information about how to apply for an AFI grant and a list of current AFI projects that can help you locate a project near you.