By: PAACT for Saporta Report
The City of Atlanta’s Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, known as OEDI, is on a mission to leverage the combined power of government, private and non-profit partners, and communities to dismantle systemic inequities and barriers to opportunity. The newly codified executive office is harnessing the power of aligning strong leadership with collaborative action to build an affordable, resilient, and equitable city.
On November 19, 2021, Mayor Keisha Lance-Bottoms’ administration announced the City of Atlanta’s inaugural Child Savings Account program which was spearheaded by the OEDI team.
The Child Savings Accounts (CSAs) are long-term savings or investment accounts designed to help children build savings for the future. These savings accounts can be used for students to pursue post-secondary education or career-ready vocational programs.
“The Child Savings Account and Youth Entrepreneurship programs are two of our Administration’s proudest achievements,” said Mayor Bottoms. “When I took office, I had a vision for a more affordable, equitable and resilient Atlanta – and that vision began with our children. These programs are another major investment in the future of our young people and the future of our city. ”
PAACT envisions a city where all children starting at birth, are healthy, learning and developing so that they enter school ready for success, thrive once in school, and are prepared to reach their full potential as residents of our city. Local governments play a key role in spurring investments that protect the future of our youngest residents.
Brittany Collins, Director of PAACT: Promise All Atlanta Children Thrive, sat down with Qaadirah Abdur-Rahim, Chief Equity Officer & Executive Director of One Atlanta, and a PAACT advisory board member, to learn more about the CSA program.
Brittany Collins (BC) How is the City of Atlanta planning to use the Child Savings Accounts program to advance equity?
Qaadirah Abdur-Rahim (QAR): As a long-term savings account, the program is poised to encourage financial literacy and build savings for post-secondary education. The city has partnered with Atlanta Public Schools (APS) and Operation HOPE to offer qualifying APS kindergarten students a new savings account, along with an initial $50 deposit. Operation HOPE will provide the seed money for the savings accounts and offer low-income kindergartners and their families additional financial resources. The City of Atlanta is donating $2 million to Operation Hope to administer the program. Accountholders will have the opportunity to add additional funds throughout their academic careers by participating in financial empowerment and educational programs.
BC: What sparked the idea for the CSA program?
QAR: While running for office, Mayor Bottoms had a clear vision for Atlanta. She established the Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion with a mission to collaborate with the City’s internal and external stakeholders to find ways to make Atlanta a more equitable place to live and work. Mayor Bottoms envisioned the CSA program during her campaign as an opportunity to drive equity for children living in communities that have not historically been invested in.
BC: How has research informed the decision to create the CSA program?
QAR: According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Kids Count Data Center, in 2019, 35% of Atlanta’s children were living in poverty. Atlanta ranks in the top 5 cities for highest child poverty rate. The research shows that children that have a savings account with $500 or more are five times more likely to graduate from a post-secondary institution.
BC: What role do community partners play in making this program a success?
QAR: Atlanta’s philanthropic community has a huge role to play in this program in terms of matching dollars the City and Operation HOPE have invested. The historical Gulch development deal provided necessary seed funding, and we would love to see public and private entities match the dollars going into the savings accounts of Atlanta’s children. In addition, nonprofit organizations such as GEEARS, through initiatives such as PAACT, and others can assist by raising awareness about the program.
BC: When will families be able to enroll in the CSA program?
QAR: Enrollment is scheduled to open before the end of the year. The program will launch with three cohorts of eligible participants, approximately 2,800 students, from 45 Title I schools. We estimate that an additional 400 students are eligible who are not currently attending a Title I school will also qualify for the program.