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Los Angeles Launches OpportunityLA, Providing Over 13,000 First Graders with Pre-Funded Bank Accounts
In a historic joint partnership between Los Angeles City, County, and LA Unified, OpportunityLA will be the largest Children’s Savings Account (CSA) program in the country.
Los Angeles, CA – In a historic joint partnership between Los Angeles City, County, and LA Unified, elected officials announced the launch of OpportunityLA, the nation’s largest Children’s Savings Account (CSA) program. The program would provide a free savings account to over 13,000 first graders across 196 schools this spring, expanding to District-wide in the fall.
The program, run by the City of L.A.’s Housing + Community Investment Department, works to improve the lives of families living in Los Angeles by increasing their financial security, developing their financial capability, and improving their educational outcomes. In partnership with Citibank, each student will receive a Citibank Savings Account with an initial deposit of $50.
Funding for this program came from CA Student Aid Commission, former L.A. City Councilmember David Ryu, the Mayor’s budget, and Council President Nury Martinez. A long-time advocate for the well-being and financial empowerment of families, Council President Martinez contributed over $1 million from her allocation of last June’s Reinvestment funding to ensure that every first-grader can participate in the CSA program.
“Last year showed why we need Families First policies,” said Council President Martinez. “Families struggled to stay afloat this pandemic and we know that 40% of families do not have $400 in savings to address an emergency— let alone save for college. Not only do we need to make sure families are stable, but we need the next generation to have greater opportunities and to break the cycle of poverty.”
According to the Center for Social Development at Washington University in St. Louis, a low- to moderate-income child with $500 or less designated for school savings is three-times more likely to enroll and nearly four-times more likely to graduate from college than a child with no savings.
“Our city is at its best when we empower our young people with every opportunity to get ahead, access an outstanding education, strengthen our economy, and overcome any hurdles standing between them and their dreams,” said Mayor Eric Garcetti. “OpportunityLA will give our children a head start on financial literacy, help them pave a pathway to higher education, and open the doors to matching their immense potential with a fair shot at a brighter future.”
To be eligible for the program, students must currently be enrolled in first-grade at a participating LAUSD school. Parents will have an opportunity to opt-out of the program by signing the opt-out form that LAUSD will provide. Families who do not opt out will receive a welcome package informing them of the program and providing each student with an account number for families to use when making contributions to their child’s account.
“In order to address barriers to higher education, particularly among communities of color, we must address the core issues that lead to systemic and racial inequities,” shared Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chair, Hilda L. Solis, Supervisor to the First District. “Los Angeles County is proud to partner with the City of LA to address the financial barriers that have historically deterred youth from pursuing higher education. Together, we are developing a financial pipeline that will set every student up for success, regardless of where they come from.”
In December 2020, Prosperity Now, an organization that tracks financial programs and policies, reported that over 922,000 children had CSAs across 36 states and Washington, D.C. This was a 30% jump from 2019, when only 707,000 children had CSAs. Currently, Black and Latino children are under-represented in these programs relative to the population of children in low-income families, making up 56% of children in low-income households but only 38% of CSA participants.
“Not only will this investment give our students the financial support they need for college--we are investing in our kids’ ability to reach their full potential and the mindset that if they work hard and do well in school, the opportunities are endless,” said School Board Member Nick Melvoin. “This initiative is a historic collaboration between the District, City, and County to instill that sense of opportunity in all of LA’s students from an early age.”
“Research has shown the significant benefits of giving young people the tools to get an early start on saving for their education,” said Brandee McHale, Head of Community Investing and Development at Citi. “We are excited to be partnering with the City of Los Angeles to provide banking services to the OpportunityLA program through our Citi Start Saving® platform, enabling all participating students in the LA Unified School District and their families to save toward attaining their educational goals.”
Savings accounts will be available to students regardless of student or parent’s income, background or immigration status. Additional deposits can be made by students and families in-person and online.
For a list of eligible schools, visit www.opportunityla.com. Information is available in English, Spanish, Simplified Chinese, Armenian, and Korean and 15 other languages online.
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