FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date: June 25, 2009
BOSTON – The Massachusetts Asset Development Commission today released its final report to the Legislature and general public recommending that the state do more to help low-to-moderate income families build the assets they need to become economically self-sufficient and reduce their need for government financial assistance.
Helping families retain income through savings to purchase a home or car, or improve education and vocational skills, is one of the most effective ways to help them stay out of poverty and achieve economic independence and security. However, the Commission found that low-to- moderate income families often face substantial barriers in developing those assets because of restrictive state income and asset limitations which can have the unintended consequence of reducing employment and savings incentives and opportunities.
According to the report, over half of all Massachusetts families lack sufficient resources to maintain their households for three months of essential living expenses if wage income is lost.
The Commission’s report includes dozens of recommendations, including administrative actions, regulatory reforms, and legislative proposals to reform current programs and embrace new, proven solutions to effectively help families achieve financial stability through asset building.
“Financial stability — being able to consistently afford a place to live, food to eat, healthcare when sick, and other simple necessities – is a dream that’s currently out of reach for hundreds of thousands of Massachusetts families. Many more are on the edge, just one lost job or serious health problem away from poverty or even homelessness,” said State Senator Jamie Eldridge, co-chair of the Commission. “The Commonwealth can, and should, do more to help these families get ahead, rather than putting barriers in the way.”
“For families living paycheck to paycheck, it can be incredibly difficult to accumulate savings that will help them weather an unexpected financial crisis and remain economically self-sufficient,” said Housing and Community Development Undersecretary Tina Brooks, also a co-chair. “The Commission’s report is full of innovative recommendations to support families who want to acquire, build and retain the assets they need to move up the economic ladder.”
“When we create opportunities for self-reliance, we improve the quality of people’s lives, reduce the need for government assistance over the long term and build a stronger economy,” said Governor Deval Patrick. “Helping families become financially stable and independent is a commonsense goal we all can share.”
Over the past year and a half, the Commission has studied the economic challenges currently facing Massachusetts families, the structure and availability of current government programs to help low-to-moderate income families, as well as successful asset-building policies being developed across the country.
The Commission’s final recommendations include:
- Removing state-imposed barriers to asset development, such as too-restrictive asset limits on state programs
- Restructuring and coordinating benefit programs to reduce “cliff effects,” which occur when someone receiving public assistance loses numerous benefits all at once after even a slight increase in their income
- Promoting education and skill development, particularly among recipients of public assistance
- Expanding college savings plans for low and moderate income families
- Protecting families from losing assets, such as affordable housing or savings
- Increasing the scale, impact and capacity of the state Earned Income Tax Credit
- Supporting financial education and helping families access systems to encourage savings and asset building
- Leveraging the full potential of housing-based, family self-sufficiency programs
The Asset Development Commission was created by the Legislature in 2006, and its members include Senator Harriet Chandler, Senator Marian Walsh, Representative Kevin Honan, along with members from financial institutions, anti-poverty groups, labor, academic, non-profit, and community advocates.
The report can be downloaded at www.senatoreldridge.com/assetdevelopment.