iSave helps Cherokees save money for home rehab
Shown is the door to the Cherokee Nation’s Commerce Services, which has the iSave Program that helps Cherokees save money for home rehabilitation projects to add value to their homes. LINDSEY BARK/CHEROKEE PHEONIX
TAHLEQUAH – The Cherokee Nation’s Commerce Services helps Cherokees whose homes are undergoing rehabilitation with the its Individual Development Account program known as iSave.
iSave teaches individuals how to budget their incomes and save money. After saving money, the program matches those individuals’ savings.
After starting the Individual Development Account program in 1998, with the CN being the first to do so, Commerce Services Executive Director Anna Knight said her group realized most people were using the funds for home rehab. Home rehab then became the sole focus.
She said home rehab includes any improvements made to the home that increases its value. “Any improvement that increases the value of the home is eligible. For example, paint, floor coverings, electrical repairs, fence installation, storm cellar installation, sidewalk installation and window replacement (apply).”
Program participants learn to save funds that are matched at a rate of $3 for every $1 saved up to $1,000, which is then matched up to $3,000.
“Individuals must save at least $100 for at least six months in order to begin receiving matching funds,” Knight said.
She said participants have up to 24 months to save the full $1,000, and after the initial 24 months, they have another 12 months to use all of their matching funds.
The money saving program works with participating local banks helping people open accounts for as little as $30 to begin saving and have account fees waived.
“The philosophy behind that is that the bank is building a future customer, so later when this person needs to borrow money or needs to open another account, they’ll become a customer for that bank,” Knight said, in a previous Cherokee Phoenix article.
In addition to saving money, individuals must also participate in the financial education component with Commerce staff-led workshops and online financial education.
Through financial education, a participant is provided with a one-on-one financial coach, provided copies of his or her credit report, taught how to improve his or her credit, given lessons on how to pay off debt and taught how to look at his or her budget and find where he or she can save money, according to the Cherokee Phoenix article.
Knight said 158 households participated in the program during fiscal year 2020. A participant must meet the national median income guidelines, be a citizen of a federally recognized tribe and own a home.
For information, call 918-453-5536 or visit www.cherokee.org/all-services/commerce-services/mortgage-assistance-program/