The Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) began funding Individual Development Account (IDA) programs for low-income refugees in October 1999. The objectives of ORR’s IDA program are: 1) "to promote the participation of refugees in the financial institutions of this country;" and 2) "to assist refugees in purchasing assets to promote their economic self-sufficiency."
The Office of Refugee Resettlement’s IDA program, as described in the 1999 Program Announcement (Federal Register, June, 9, 1999), is designed to help participants to purchase assets, as a means of increasing their financial independence. Program participants receive financial literacy training and have the opportunity to open a matched savings account. IDA program participants must save toward one of the following savings goals:
- Homeownership or renovation;
- Microenterprise capitalization;
- Post-secondary education;
- Vocational training or recertification;
- Automobile purchase (if needed to maintain or upgrade employment)
- Computer purchase (for one’s education or microenterprise).
At the time that funds are withdrawn for a qualifying asset purchase, the withdrawals are matched. Some of ORR’s IDA program grantees offer a 1:1 match (i.e., in these programs, an individual participant can have a maximum of $4,000 of their savings matched, receiving a $4,000 match, for a total of $8,000 toward their asset purchase). The remainder offer a 2:1 match (i.e., in these programs, an individual participant can have a maximum of $2,000 of their savings matched, receiving a $4,000 match, for a total of $6,000 toward their asset purchase).
In order to qualify for ORR’s IDA program, a refugee (see footnote 1) must:
- Have earned income
- Have a household earned income that does not exceed 200 percent of the federal poverty level (at the time of program enrollment)
- Have assets that do not exceed $10,000 (at the time of enrollment), excluding the value of a primary residence.