United Way of Central Texas S.O.A.R. Collaborative, Impacting Central Texas Families, Launches July 22, 2015
Press Conference and Kick-off Celebration July 22 at 5:00 p.m.

Temple, Texas- July 16, 2015 - The United Way of Central Texas (UWCT) and its partners—Extraco Banks, the Central Texas Housing Consortium, Helping Hands Ministries, Fort Hood Area Habitat for Humanity, City of Temple, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services—are excited to announce a new community-wide public, private, faith-based partnership—called the United Way S.O.A.R. (Savings, Opportunities, Assets, and Results) Collaborative. A press conference and kick-off celebration will be at 5:00 p.m. on July 22, 2015. The event will take place at 18 South Main, Extraco Banks' downtown Temple location, in the front lobby.

During the press conference and kick-off celebration, program clients will make their first deposit, starting their journey towards building their long-term net worth.

The S.O.A.R. Collaborative promotes self-sufficiency among low- to moderate-income populations in Central Texas through an incentivized savings and financial literacy program. The S.O.A.R. Collaborative offers program participants Individual Development Accounts—called Boost Accounts—that are special savings accounts to assist low income people on their path toward asset ownership through a matched savings and financial education program.  Boost Accounts reward the monthly savings of people who are trying to buy their first home or pay for college.  For each dollar participants save towards the purchase of their asset, they will receive a match of two dollars, up to a $2,000 savings goal over 24 months. Participants are also required to attend financial literacy classes to learn the importance of long term assets, savings, how to budget,  how to manage debt, and gain credit worthiness.

"Extraco is excited about our partnership in the United Way S.O.A.R. project," said Steve Wolfe, President of Extraco's Central Texas Southern Region. "This is a community-wide collaboration, that puts people on the path to financial stability.  It is our hope, through financial literacy and the IDA savings program, that each participant will attain their goal of purchasing  a new home or completing a post secondary education."

Despite an improving national economy, far too many Central Texas residents are still struggling to achieve long-term financial stability. A new report from the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED), reveals that nearly half of households in the Bell County are currently living in liquid asset poverty. Liquid asset poverty is defined as the percentage of households without sufficient liquid assets to subsist at the poverty level for three months in the absence of income. 

The goal of overcoming poverty and financial instability must not only include strategies to meet each immediate challenge, it must also include long-term strategies that create sustained wealth through savings and improving financial literacy levels. 

“The United Way S.O.A.R. Collaborative will be vital to improving the lives of many in our community,” said UWCT Chief Executive Officer  James Thurston. “For too long, local social service provision  has reflected the national policy approach-- focusing efforts and resources too narrowly on income supports such as rent assistance, utility assistance, and food assistance. While critical to the immediate well-being of many low-income families, these strategies are not effective in helping these families build long-term wealth.”

“This is the first time a program like United Way S.O.A.R. has been available in our community and we are excited to be included in the partnership,” said Central Texas Housing Consortium Executive Director Barbara Bozon. “The S.O.A.R. process directly ties a participant’s efforts to greater achievement. Eligible household participants will deposit earned income into savings accounts to reach a predetermined savings goal over a one to two year period."

“Then the total is matched on a two-to-one basis, and funds can be withdrawn to use as a down payment on a home, pay for higher education expenses or to start a business,” Bozon said. “Any time households can increase assets, increase educational attainment or a new business opens in the community, we all benefit by having a stronger community.”

Helping Hands Ministry of Belton Executive Director, Rucker Preston, said he is very excited to be part of the United Way S.O.A.R. collaborative and the impact it is going to make on the community. “By cooperating with United Way of Central Texas and other nonprofit organizations, we can provide more services that help working class families climb out of poverty.” Preston said. “These new financial initiatives provide key opportunities for families to have greater stakes in the helping process."

Enrollment for the United Way S.O.A.R. Collaborative program began July 10, 2015.  For more information please call (254) 778-8616.