A bill tacked onto the Legislature’s late-session tax package will preserve an Interfaith Housing Services program that used donated dollars to help people save for college, housing or business dreams.
House Bill 2099, by allowing individuals to again buy certain state tax credits, will breathe new life into the Creating Assets, Savings, and Hope (CASH) program, which once reached into almost every county in the state, but was nearly dead due to restrictions imposed by lawmakers three years ago.
“All our Reno County representatives and Sen. (Terry) Bruce really supported the program,” said Lorna Moore, CASH program director. “We met with them before they went back to Topeka and they told us they would do everything they could – and they did.”
“When it looked like the bill was going to be part of the conference committee and that they might take it out, they kept on the members of the committee and were able to get it included,” Moore said. “It’s one little piece of legislation no one heard about.”
The CASH program matches a participant’s savings of up to $2,000, with $2 awarded for every $1 saved. The program also offers financial literacy and instruction in planning skills.
To qualify for the CASH program, a participants’ income must fall below 200 percent of the federal poverty level, they must have a job and complete the financial education course.
“The CASH program allows (participants) to set a goal, to save for a down payment toward home ownership, to save to repair a current home they own, to capitalize a small business or to go back to college,” said Holly Thomas, director of development for Interfaith Housing Services.
The 2012 prohibition against selling tax credits to individuals – coupled with a tax law changes that erased a need by limited liability corporations and S corporations to seek the credits – dried up donations that funded the CASH Program, slashing them from more than $600,000 in 2012 to just $21,000 in 2014.
That also eliminated some $300,000 in matching federal grants, Moore said.
“Instead of being able to help 200 people a year, we were only able to help about three,” Moore said.
It’s likely, she said Thursday, the program “would have pretty much been over,” without the change.
Interfaith is now working to sell the remaining portion of $500,000 in tax credits previously awarded by the Kansas Department of Commerce. Selling them all will raise $665,000 for the program, Thomas said.
Under the IDA tax credit program, a taxpayer can donate $250 or more, and in exchange receive up to 75 percent of the donation as a credit against state taxes or, if they don’t owe Kansas income taxes, get a 75 percent refund. Additionally, Thomas noted, the donor can deduct the entire donation amount from federal tax returns as a charitable contribution.
“By purchasing IDA Tax Credits through Interfaith Housing Services you can make a big difference in a person’s life and keep your tax dollars local,” Thomas said.
They have already started getting donations through the program and anticipate selling them all, Moore said.
“We started marketing to people that purchased them in the past and we’ll continue doing that,” Moore said. “One of the things we’ll do differently this year, they’ve always before been primarily marketed in Reno County, but we’ll start marketing them across the state now because the Individual Development Account programs is a statewide program.”
If fully funded, the program will assist 150 to 200 people in the coming year, Moore said.
To participate as a donor, contact Holly Thomas or Lorna Moore for an IDA tax credit application at (620) 662-8370 or visit www.ihs-housing.org/CASH. Contributions can be via check, stock or mutual fund transfers or with a credit card.
For information on the CASH program, contact Moore at the same number or email Lorenam@ihs-housing.org.
New program assists with emergency home repair
Interfaith Housing Services plans to expand its Creating Assets, Savings, and Hope (CASH) program this year using a Kansas Housing Resources grant to offer assistance for emergency home repairs.
“We’ll receive a $450,000 grant from them July 1 that we’ll use similar to the IDA,” said CASH Program Director Lorna Moore. “It can be used for emergency repair, such as a new roof or roof repair, electrical, or plumbing.”
The savings can also be used for medical access, such as a wheelchair ramp or bath remodel.
“It won’t have quite the same restrictions as the regular IDA program. Under it, Kansans have to save at least six months. For this one, as soon as they have money needed to match, they can make the repair.”
In addition, the program will match savings 3-to-1, enabling people to reach their goal much more quickly.
Participants will have to meet other qualifications to participate, including financial education, although that will be available through an online class “they can do at their convenience, to fit their schedule,” Moore said.