New Field Scans Take an In-Depth Look at CSA Funding and Policy

The Children’s Savings Account (CSA) field is dynamic, with new programs starting up and existing programs expanding and changing. To capture the trends in the field, Prosperity Now conducts an annual survey of CSA programs. We shared high-level findings from the 2017 survey earlier this year in The Movement Takes Off: The State of the Children’s Savings Field 2017

In 2017, we also supplemented the data collected in the program survey through interviews with 13 of the leading CSA programs across the country. We’ve synthesized the findings from the interviews with the survey data to produce a series of briefs, titled An In-Depth Look at the CSA Field. The briefs identify emerging trends, supports and barriers in CSA implementation and policy that can help inform further research and provide guidance to the field on promising practices. 

The first brief focuses on how CSA programs secure financial resources to support their initiatives and the implications of those funding sources for program sustainability. 

The second brief explores the state and local CSA policy landscape, including an overview of how states and cities support CSA programs and other policies that impact CSA programs, such as asset limits for public benefits. 

Below are key findings from the briefs on funding and state and local policy.

CSA Funding

A range of private and public funding sources have supported the CSA field’s expansion over the past several years. These funding sources allow programs to support their operations and incentivize the growth of participants’ CSAs. The CSA program survey and interviews with CSA program managers revealed that:

  • To cover the cost of program operations and incentives, programs are relying on a variety of types and sources of funding, many of which are short term.
  • Securing public sector funding requires leveraging support and political capital from local elected officials. CSA programs need an influential political leader or a champion to make the case for city or state funding.
  • Funding from 529 plans is a viable source of funding for state-run CSA programs.

State and Local CSA Policy

Over the past several years, state and locally-supported CSA programs have grown across the country. In the first half of 2018 alone, Pennsylvania passed legislation to create a statewide CSA program for newborns. New mayors in Saint Paul, Minnesota and Atlanta, Georgia announced their intentions to create CSA programs in their cities. Key findings in the state and local CSA policy brief include:

  • Having an elected official who is a strong champion for the program helps facilitate development of publicly-supported CSA programs, but broader support is needed to maintain them.
  • Related public policies—such as asset limits—and account features can impact whether CSA programs are accessible to families with low-incomes.
  • Having an identified, non-appropriations source of funding—such as from other types of public funding or private funding—can make programs easier to launch, but these funding sources may not be sustainable for the long-term.

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