Becoming financially stable might seem out of reach for many Wyoming families, but the Wyoming Women’s Business Center staff is hoping a $50,000 grant from the Wyoming Women’s Foundation could help, Business Center Executive Director Debbie Gorski said.
“This money is going toward individual development account program,” Gorski explained. “It’s basically our matched-savings program.”
The grant was bolstered by funds from the John P. Ellbogen Foundation and is designed to help Wyomingites learn about financial literacy and savings habits.
“We’ve been doing (individual development accounts) for more than 10 years,” Gorski said. “We’ve done around 80 (individual development accounts), and they gave us this grant to help us to expand the program.”
Individual development accounts are savings accounts that can be used to help fund home purchases, business startups or expansions and post-secondary education or attendance at a trade school, she said.
“We match $2,000 if the participant saves $2,000,” Gorski said. “The women’s foundation really wants to emphasize education, so if (a business center client is) saving for post-secondary education, and they save $2,000, the way the grant is set up, we would provide $4,000.”
While the name of the business center often gives people the impression only women are eligible for the center’s services, anyone can apply for the individual development account program, Gorski said.
“A lot of time people think we don’t serve men, but we do, we don’t discriminate,” Gorski said. “The target for this program is low-income families and individuals.”
To qualify for the program, Gorski said applicants would need to be below or at the women’s foundation self-sufficiency standard.
“For Albany County, what that means is if you have one adult caring for one preschooler, they would need to make $17.33 an hour to be self sufficient — to cover their basic expenses,” she said. “We’re helping people who are below or at that standard. What we want to do is help people get above that. We want people to develop a savings habit and become financially literate.”
A self-sufficiency calculator can be accessed on the foundation’s website, www.wywf.org.
To apply for the business center’s individual development account program, Gorski said interested parties can visit the center’s website, www.wyomingwomen.org, and navigate to the “access to capital” tab.
Once a person’s application is accepted, Gorski said they would need to complete goal-setting counseling, financial literacy training and start a savings account before they could receive their match funds.
“This grant is for this calendar year,” she said. “For most of our clients, it will take them a year to save that much money, so we’ll put the funds in a savings account to ensure they’re there when (the applicant) is ready for them.”
The business center’s goal is 20 participants in the program, and while the center focuses on people living in Albany and Laramie counties, Gorski said all Wyoming residents are welcome to apply.
“There’s no county in Wyoming where you can support an adult and a child on the minimum wage,” she said. “We do focus on business development. But with this program, we are promoting economic equality.”