Universal Children's Savings Program Set to Launch in Saint Paul Next Year

At his State of the City address on March 14, Saint Paul (MN) Mayor Melvin Carter announced a universal, at-birth Children’s Savings Account (CSA) program set to launch next year—College Bound Saint Paul. This announcement marked a tangible step toward achieving Carter’s promise of creating CSAs for every Saint Paul child. And it came after months of work in an “inclusive, community-owned” program design process, according to CSA Program Manager Ikram Koliso.

Koliso, who worked as a policy associate in the mayor’s office before starting her current role, supported a 31-member task force charged with creating a recommendations report outlining an ideal design for the CSA program. Prosperity Now staff members served as advisers to the task force. Koliso said that the task force was designed to be as inclusive as possible.

“The first thing we did, before we even started thinking about putting together a task force, was convene different groups of stakeholders that have a potential touchpoint with the program,” she said. “For example, we convened hospitals and birth centers, but not just large birth centers. We included standalone birth centers and doulas. We talked to people who work with mothers who are incarcerated. We had a rich, diverse group within each group of stakeholders.”

Most members of the task force were women, people of color and/or Indigenous. When the mayor’s staff finalized the subcommittee structure, they kept that focus on inclusion. For example, the Funds and Fundraising subcommittee—which developed recommendations on the account platform and potential funding sources—included representatives from various backgrounds.

“The subcommittee working on the account product wasn’t just a bunch of bankers,” she said. “We had someone from one of our Indigenous community foundations [the Tiwahe Foundation], we had someone from the Saint Paul schools, we had someone from Junior Achievement. We brought in perspectives that the bankers alone wouldn’t have brought.”

“CLUES [Comunidades Latinas Unidas en Servicio] provides a lot of services for our Latinx community,” Koliso added. “We wanted to have a couple people from CLUES, not just on the executive committee, but also on the different subcommittees.”

She emphasized that the task force’s efforts will help alleviate a roadblock for some children to access the CSA program. Although the program will automatically enroll many children who are born in Saint Paul, children who move to Saint Paul before turning six will need their parents or caregivers to sign up for the program. Various community-based organizations in Saint Paul will encourage families who fall into this category to sign up for the program.

“All of the organizations in the task force have a touchpoint with families and children,” Koliso said. “They helped us think creatively about how to reach out to those families who will have to opt in. The Community and Institutional Partnerships subcommittee explored how we can partner with existing organizations. The task force knows what the touchpoints are for kids and families. Without having them at the table, we wouldn’t have known that.”

The task force developed a landscape analysis of organizations and institutions that interact with parents and caregivers of young children. These organizations will act as ambassadors and champions of the program. Koliso advised city-level officials interested in setting up CSA programs to replicate Saint Paul’s efforts to bring many stakeholders together.

“That makes everything easier because we built in champions from the start,” she said. “We don’t have to build relationships when the program launches, because that’s already been done. We created a wide network of people who can lift up the program.”

College Bound Saint Paul will launch for all city newborns on January 1, 2020, with a $50 seed deposit for every child.

To receive ongoing information on the children’s savings field, sign up for the Campaign for Every Kid’s Future newsletter at savingsforkids.org.

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