October 25, 2008 in Business

Program focuses on small savings

SNAP class offers lessons for hard times
By The Spokesman-Review
 

Kimberly Nybo says an empty one-gallon Gallo wine bottle holds about $500 in quarters.

Years ago, she filled two, hoping to pay for a trip to New Orleans. Instead, when she fell behind on car payments, the change kept her in the driver’s seat.

Nybo saves all her change. When a purse she carries just for coins gets heavy, she said, she dumps the contents into a container. A chock-full-of-change Folgers coffee can once paid for Christmas.

“I call it funny money,” she said.

Funny, and serious. Instructor Terri Stoflet said Nybo’s savings habits made her an example for other members of a Spokane Neighborhood Action Programs class on financial management. Many did not know how to balance a checkbook, she said.

The class was a component of a SNAP/United Way program that promised participants a $200 match of savings set aside from federal income tax rebates sent out last spring. Applicants also had to attend two counseling sessions. Only recipients of the earned income tax credit could qualify, and they had to produce a deposit slip proving they had put aside $200 from their stimulus checks.

If the money was still in the account three months later, they got a check from United Way.

Some, overwhelmed by bills, didn’t make it, Stoflet said.

Ashley Dawson, a SNAP financial services specialist, said Nybo was one of 37 people to hang on and collect the $200 match. Another individual received $94.

Three other program enrollees still have a chance, she said, but time will run out Oct. 31.

“I’m guessing everyone has spent their stimulus checks,” Dawson said, adding that a survey indicated expenses for the new school year consumed much of the money. Home improvement was the other major use, she said.

Dawson said most program participants – 80 percent – said they plan to continue saving, but with a condition: “Only if something else does not come up.”

Nybo, unemployed and with an ailing mother, said that something else had come up for her, and her check was spent.

But she said SNAP reinforced her determination to save and affirmed that the measures she had taken to get through past hard times were prudent.

“You sacrifice when you save,” Nybo said.

At Spokane County United Way, President Tim Henkel said the organization, which budgeted $20,000 for matches, was pleased with program results even if participation fell short of hoped-for numbers.

“It seems like the right thing for us to be doing,” Henkel said.

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