If you're like most people following most media, you probably missed something really special that made its way into law out of Miami City Hall a few weeks back. The Child Savings Account Program took effect January 24th. It means that 2400 families, 90% of which qualify for free or reduced lunches, will get a savings account set up automatically for their child upon enrolling in kindergarten. It gets $50 in seed funding. And it is to be used upon graduating high school towards college expenses. I caught up with Giovanni Castro, the mayor's deputy chief of staff, who hopes this will be a "pathway for prosperity," and William Porro, Special Projects Administrator for City of Miami, to learn more. They explained to me that people are four times more likely to start post-secondary education and three times more likely to graduate just by having an account.
"You can't spend your way out of poverty, you have to save" Mr. Porro told me in a matter of fact way that conveys the practical nature of this initiative. In 2000, the then-mayor got the city's first anti-poverty initiative supported by general fund dollars through. Things like free tax sites, micro-lending, individual development accounts, and even free workshops to encourage residents to take advantage of the Earned Income Tax Credit sprouted up. Miami became one of seven founding cities doing Core Financial Empowerment programming.
The Child Savings Account program took off from conversations Mr. Porro had with San Francisco treasurer, Jose Cisneros. The Children's Trust nonprofit provides infrastructure funding to another nonprofit. In general fund dollars come from the Department of Human Services and the Mayor's office. The initiative earned widespread support from research put forth by the Prosperity Now center and from Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava. There is hope among elected officials and nonprofit groups that beyond City of Miami, the initiative will also be adopted countywide and by other municipalities. "I'm hoping and I pray other communities will do the same," Mr.Porro said.