ONAC Provides Six Programs:
1. Mini-grants for Native asset builders to fund various asset building programs (ONAC has grant administration systems in place, provides technical assistance to grantees, and has funded thirty-six grants, $197,200 total, since 2014, to tribes and Native nonprofits in Oklahoma, Maine, North Carolina, South Dakota, Minnesota, Montana, and Alaska).
2. Professional development for Native asset builders and program building (planning and hosting our annual conference; offering free technical assistance to our constituents as they design and implement asset building programs; submitting administrative policy guidance requests; conducting evaluation of asset building programs; providing research on Children's Savings Account programs; promoting Native participation in the 2020 Census; administering the first Native-led Bank On coalition in the country; creating resources for how those teaching Native financial education can take their classes online during the COVID-19 pandemic; generating resources and providing data related to Native women entrepreneurs; offering resources related to fraud and scam prevention; and participating in advisory groups related to community tax preparation and closing the women’s wealth gap.
As part of this program, ONAC hosts the Native EITC/VITA Network which is comprised of Native VITA site coordinators and advocates. The purpose of the network is to share resources and opportunities, to provide a platform for interaction among Native site coordinators, and to bring concerns from Native VITA sites to appropriate parties. To complete the ONAC Native EITC/VITA survey and/or to join the related directory, go to https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/ONACVITA. Those interested in joining the network may contact Patsy Schramm, ONAC Native EITC/VITA Coordinator, at email@example.com.
3. Children’s Savings Accounts, CSAs (opening and funding CSAs for Native youth to help them build a nest egg of savings). For this program, ONAC works with twenty-two tribal and Native nonprofit partners to host account opening events. To date, ONAC has funded 968 accounts (921 directly opened and funded by ONAC and tribal partners and 47 more CSAs funded through recent awards that ONAC made to two grantees). These accounts help address the racial wealth gap and low college graduation rates in Indian Country (only 14% of American Indian students age 25 or older have a college degree-less than half the national average, according to the American Indian College Fund). Instilling young people with the habit of saving is proven to have long-term benefits. In The College Savings Initiative, a joint project between the Center for Social Development at Washington University in St. Louis and the New America Foundation in Washington, DC, researchers found that “in multivariate analysis, youth who expect to graduate from a four-year college and have an account are about seven times more likely to attend college than youth who expect to graduate from a four-year college but do not have an account.” (Elliott, W. and Beverly, S. (2010). The Role of Savings and Wealth in Reducing “Wilt” between Expectations and College Attendance. Journal of Children & Poverty, 17(2), 165-185. Also available at https://csd.wustl.edu/Publications/Documents/WP10-01.pdf.)
The Children’s Savings Accounts are primarily opened through 529 Savings Plans and are culturally-relevant. We provide Native-specific financial education, a Native arts project as part of the account opening events, and a food sovereignty component by providing organic gardening seeds to the youth who are opening CSAs. We have the capacity to open CSAs for Native youth regardless where they live in the United States.
Please note that ONAC does not consider the Children’s Savings Accounts to be scholarships. Students do not apply to ONAC to receive the funds. As part of this community-based program, ONAC works with our tribal partners to open a number of accounts at the same time, at account-opening events, with a targeted population (i.e. all children in a tribally-administered Head Start program or all youth attending a tribal early childhood learning center).
ONAC believes there is benefit to offering the financial education to the youth and parents along with the hands-on opportunity of opening and managing a mainstream college savings account. (ONAC provides the initial seed deposit of $100 per account, the minimum opening deposit required by the Oklahoma 529 Savings Plan). With help opening the accounts and the seed deposit, the families have a mechanism for college savings and are motivated to save for their child’s post-secondary education costs. Through this process, the families grow their financial capability, the parents may increase their expectations that their child will go to college, and the youth may think it is more of an option for them to go to college (aspirational change). These account help create a pipeline to college.
As part of the program, the youth receive a culturally-relevant financial education booklet. In the booklet, the youth guide a coin through a maze to a piggy bank; enjoy a word find as they search for words describing tribal assets (culture, language, land, regalia, community, family, homes, land); complete sentences about tribes and their CSA; count coins and match the totals to amounts listed; note their future savings goals; think about a history of saving in their families and tribes and describe how they want to share with others now and in the future; list the tribes in Oklahoma and mark where their tribal seat of government is located (focusing on tribal sovereignty as a Native asset); and draw assets of value to them. With parental permission, ONAC has included artwork in an ONAC desk calendar to promote talking about assets throughout the year. In the future, we would like to have an art exhibit to showcase the artwork from Native youth in the program.
As of January 2019, ONAC also funded Native child savings initiatives in North Carolina and Montana.
Click here to access an interim ONAC CSA report.
In January 2020, ONAC published a report on Native Children's Savings Initiatives in the United States.
4. Emergency Savings Accounts, ESAs, (In total, from May 2015 to August 2020, ONAC has secured funding for 604 ESAs, funded 512 ESAs, and has plans to fund the remaining 92 ESAs by September 2021).
5. Emergency Cash Assistance, (as of May 15, 2020, ONAC received funding to provide emergency cash assistance to Native families experiencing financial distress during the COVID-19 pandemic. ONAC is the offering the first Native-led emergency cash assistance program in the country. ONAC will work with a list of tribal and Native-led nonprofit partners for referrals for these funds. The first distributions to families were made on June 5, 2020. Additionally, ONAC is now partnering with the Decolonizing Wealth Project and the Family Independence Initiative to provide support for 2,000 more emergency cash assistance grants for American Indian and Alaska Native families.
6. One-on-one credit counseling, homebuyer education, and other financial coaching, (ONAC is providing these free one-on-one services, by appointment, via phone and teleconference to Native families).