ELLY GRIMM • Leader & Times
The Kansas Department of Commerce has been keeping busy, and recently, the department announced a pair of new programs.
Wednesday, the Kansas Department of Commerce announced it is seeking qualified organizations to administer Individual Development Account (IDA) programs in communities throughout the state.
“The Kansas IDA program allows administering organizations to provide qualified low-income Kansans the opportunity to achieve financial self-sufficiency via special savings accounts,” a release from the State of Kansas noted. “The IDA savings account contributes up to a 3:1 match for deposits made by individuals that can be used for small business development, higher education, or the purchase of a first home.”
"The IDA program aims to bring people out of poverty and increase their opportunities for growth,” said Lieutenant Governor and Commerce Secretary David Toland noted in the State of Kansas release. “Improving the quality of life for individuals helps strengthen the communities they live in – and the overall prosperity of the state. The program accomplishes this by leveling the opportunity to achieve financial self-sufficiency through education and asset development. The Kansas Department of Commerce oversees the program and allocates up to $500,000 annually in state income tax credits – but relies on local partners to implement the program in communities across the state. Community charities, and tribal and religious organizations are eligible to become qualified IDA Program Administrators. Selected organizations are responsible for providing or raising the funds necessary for matching contributions to individual development accounts. They also will identify target populations for priority participation, provide economic education seminars, and work with participating financial institutions. The organizations can serve a specific region, multiple regions, or the entire state, and may receive up to $100,000 in tax credits annually.”
“IDA tax credits are a powerful tool for eligible organizations focused on improving a person’s economic opportunity,” Kayla Savage, Director of the Community Development Division, noted in the State of Kansas release. “It is our goal to award these tax credits to organizations that will be our partners in reaching every part of Kansas. We have removed barriers to the application process this year and we need organizations to sign up for the informational webinar and apply now.”
If your organization is interested in administering an IDA program, the Department of Commerce invites those interested to an introductory webinar at 1 p.m. Tuesday, Aug.16 Registration is required to attend. Registration information for the webinar can be found here.
Wednesday, Toland also announced a unique opportunity for rural communities throughout the state – the Rural by Choice Champions Program (Rural Champions). This one-year pilot program will create a network of grassroots individuals who will tackle critical community projects and identified needs integral for rural prosperity. Rural Champions, which was made possible through a collaboration with the Patterson Family Foundation, will help drive success when there is a lack of capital or other resources to complete the project, according to a separate release from the State of Kansas.
“We are continually looking at ways to keep and attract individuals that want to live and work in our rural communities throughout the state,” Toland noted in the State of Kansas release. “Through this program and other initiatives, such as our Grassroots Economic Development Program and Rural Opportunity Zones, we are focusing on removing barriers to success in rural Kansas. In 2021, Commerce’s Office of Rural Prosperity (ORP), in partnership with the Kansas Sampler Foundation, outlined the recommendation for Rural Champions in its Power Up and Go report, an effort begun by former Lieutenant Governor Lynn Rogers prior to his appointment as State Treasurer. The need for the Rural Champions program was identified through surveys and interviews of more than 600 rural Kansans under the age of 40 as something that would ‘move the needle’ toward success.”
In order to apply, communities describe current activities, challenges that are stifling progress and how a Rural Champion would benefit advancement. Twelve communities will be selected for the pilot program and will receive a stipend for wages for the Rural Champion. Projects could include anything that the community designates as critically needed, including, but not limited to:
• A new childcare facility or rehabilitating a building to support a childcare center;
• Health and wellness projects such as a trail system or shared bike program;
• Rehabilitation or construction of new housing units; or entrepreneurship development.
Eligible applicants, which must be located in counties with less than 40,000 population, include:
• Cities or Counties;
• Economic/Community Development Organizations;
• Community Foundations;
• Local Chambers of Commerce or Tourism groups;
• Nonprofit organizations including 501(c)3 or 501(c)6;
• Main Street organizations or affiliates; or
• Federally recognized tribal communities.
“The program was designed to help revitalize rural communities,” Trisha Purdon, Director Office of Rural Prosperity noted in the State of Kansas release. “The Rural Champions will play an integral part in identifying projects – and then making them happen. Every community is unique, and this program provides the flexibility to develop a project that fits their goals. Rural Champions will receive direct guidance and technical assistance from the Office of Rural Prosperity to ensure project success. The Office of Rural Prosperity will assist with the development of a rural community playbook to share with other communities for future projects.”
Applications will be accepted until 5 p.m. Friday, Sept. 16. An informational webinar will be held at 10:00 a.m. Thursday, August 18. For more information and to register for the webinar, visit our website at https://www.kansascommerce.gov/orp/ruralchampions/. Rural Champions will be announced in late September and will have one year to complete their projects.