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Texas CU Foundation Initiative Helps Families Save
FARMERS BRANCH, Texas (4/12/13)--The Texas Credit Union Foundation--with the participation of two Texas credit unions--is helping the state's families build a more solid financial foundation through the Opportunity Savings Project.

Opportunity Texas is a joint initiative of the Center for Public Policy Priorities and RAISE Texas. Through the initiative, two tax-time savings programs are available, including the Opportunity Savings Project--operated in partnership with TCUF (LoneStar Leaguer April 11).

"The goal of this initiative is simply to encourage better savings habits," said Staci Zale, TCUF associate director. "By getting into the habit of saving a little bit each month, consumers will be in a better financial position to manage unexpected expenses."

Raise Texas and Opportunity Texas gave a $10,000 grant to the Opportunity Savings Project and TCUF matched that grant, bringing the total to $20,000, Zale said. TCUF is working with Border FCU in Del Rio and Coastal Community CU in Galveston on the project. Both credit unions participate in the Internal Revenue Service's (IRS) Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program.

TCUF is offering a matched savings account to filers at VITA sites operated by Border FCU and Coastal Community CU. Filers at the credit unions' VITA sites are encouraged to open and deposit a portion of their refund into their credit union savings account and build savings in the account over a one-year period. Just for signing up, filers receive between a $25-50 gift card.

Next January, if the participant has a higher balance in their account than their initial deposit, participants will receive a 1:1 match on their net savings, up to $100, TCUF said.

The VITA program offers free tax help to low- to moderate-income individuals who cannot prepare their own tax returns. There are 514 VITA sites in Texas, according to the IRS. The agency is continuing to expand its partnerships with nonprofit and community organizations performing tax preparation services for low-income and elderly taxpayers.

The project is similar to an individual development account, in which an individual of modest means would set a savings goal that would be matched if they met their goal. The project is reportedly one of the largest active savings projects in Texas this tax season, TCUF said.

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