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Growing Your Child Account Program: Funding and Policy Opportunities: Q&A Session

October 8, 2015

Growing Your Child Account Program: Funding and Policy Opportunities: Q&A Session

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Below is a full transcript of this video presentation. It has not been edited or reviewed for accuracy or readability.

Teresa Wilson: All right. We’re going to open it up to the audience, and please give your name and your organization in which you’re with. Questions?

Joe Antolin: In the back.

Ezra Levine: Hi, Ezra with CFED. Colleen, you were just talking about local and state level efforts, is there any kind of national effort or even maybe it’s a campaign that’s coordinated to increase these efforts or–

Carl Rist: I was thinking, like, there was a softball coming. Thank you, Ezra, yeah. So, I do want to mention, for folks who are eager to raise the visibility of Children’s Savings, there’s a new Campaign For Every Kid’s Future that we and a bunch of partners in this room have launched to really raise the profile of CSAs. Our goal is 1.4 million CSAs in the next five years. You have a handout at your table when you first got in. It looks like this. It’s got the logo of the Campaign for Every Kid’s Future. There’s also the website there. It’s called We would love everyone in this room just to go to the website there and sign up to be a partner on the Campaign for Every Kid’s Future. The more we have, the more we can make the case that the people, organizations, and communities around the country are supporting this as a critical way to support our kids. So, thank you, Ezra.

Teresa Wilson: Okay. Are there any other questions?

Andrea Bennett: I’m Andrea Bennett with Kentucky Youth Advocates. And I’ve heard a lot of programs throughout today, and I know we’ve just touched on some policies, primarily from the funding angle, but I heard someone briefly mention state legislation. And so, I’m just wondering, what is the trend as far as putting these programs in state policy and legislation or is that mostly just a funding mechanism and the programs are set up privately by collaborations or coalitions?

Joe Antolin: I’ll take a shot at that, because I was once in state government in Illinois. A, I don’t think there’s a lot of these programs that are in state legislation, although probably in–

Colleen Quint: And some of them are. Some of the ones in New England are.

Joe Antolin: Some of the ones in New England–that’s what I was going to say. Some of the recent ones–

Colleen Quint: Yeah.

Joe Antolin: . . . that haven’t been rolled out yet are, Vermont and New Hampshire, in particular.

Carl Rist: Those two, right, yeah.

Joe Antolin: Right, right. And was Connecticut’s executive order–

Colleen Quint: That was done by the governor.

Carl Rist: Yeah.

Joe Antolin: So, the legislation’s all right.

Colleen Quint: [Unintelligible at 00:02:20] there yet.

Joe Antolin: So, there’s three models there. The other thing to think about, though, is, you know, states have sort of forgotten that TANF money is a block grant and a lot of states are using it for a lot of stupid things that don’t have anything to do with, you know, with supporting families that are poor, and this might, again, be a vehicle that could be interesting as an appropriate purpose. And the weird thing about it is it’s probably something that Michael was advocating before TANF got passed, as what TANF could do. But, here we are, again, at a place where maybe the time has come to do that now that so many states are focused on getting rid of people, and now, they have to figure out how to use the money in appropriate ways.

Colleen Quint: Well, so, the only thing, like, I’d add on top of that is that if you–you know, Congress may be a–what was it? The dust in the fire or the dumpster in the fire, right.

Carl Rist: Dumpster Fire, right.

Colleen Quint: So, in state governments it’s not quite that bad, but it has its moments, as well. And so, you know, take a look and see whether you actually need legislation to do what you want to do, right, so, which I think is to some degree what Joe is just saying is that there may be ways that you could, whether it’s allocating dollars or creating programs or other ways of structuring it.

In Maine, you know, and I think even nationally, the enabling legislation is already there to be able to do what we did, which is, as a government or non-profit agency, open the custodial account on behalf of beneficiaries and to be named later. If we had had to put that into legislation, it would have been a two to three year process of just kind of going through committees and saying that this would be worthwhile, you know, versus other things, because they always feel like it’s a zero sudden gain.

So, you know, I think that there are a lot of things–sometimes they use legislation because that’s where they want to build. Like, in Vermont, I think they–because that’s where they wanted to build some of the visibility and the momentum for it, and I don’t–there may have been degrees to which it was necessary, but look carefully at that because it’s not a route, you know, you necessarily need to go down.

Joe Antolin: And then, the other thing to think about are like the Community Block Grant money tends to be, in many cities, they spend the same money the same way every year without really looking at the effect. And if you’re in a position where you can influence that and sort of look at what’s the impact and whether or not it has it, whether it’s that money or it’s corporate money from that municipality, you know, and you’re sort of doing a shift of money, there’s ways to get public funding for that purpose.

Carl Rist: Okay. The bottom line is, you know, no state, yet, has passed legislation to use general fund dollars to support kid’s accounts, but as the movement grows, there’s no reason they couldn’t do that. I think the big lesson here is that a lot of states have used, kind of, creative mechanisms, whether it’s–

Joe Antolin: Right.

Carl Rist: . . . a private fund like the Alfond Fund or whether it’s fees from your 529 Plan. So, I think there’s ways to do it, but don’t forget about General Fund Revenues.

Teresa Wilson: Well, since we’re talking about legislation, let’s look on the Federal level. I know that, I think, Ray has worked on the Aspire Act, so let’s look at this way. How can stakeholders educate policymakers and create an environment where CSA policies can move forward?

Colleen Quint: So, I’ll jump on that, if any of you guys don’t mind.

Joe Antolin: Go ahead.

Teresa Wilson: Hm-hmm. [affirmative]

Colleen Quint: So, one of the things that I think about is the notion of the tipping point, right? And to me, part of the appeal of the Campaign for Every Kid’s Future and getting 1.4 million accounts opened across the country in different regions, the way that we’ve created through Anthony’s work at the Federal Reserve in Boston, a really strong regional cluster and presence in New England and the way that we’re hoping that that can seed an interest elsewhere. You know, if you get enough different places with enough mass, so to speak, to what they’re doing, then, it’s enough that people have to start to pay attention. And we talked in a meeting, previously, about, you know, kind of getting to that 1.4 million helps you to get to sort of a proof of concept. You have enough programs in enough places with different models that all get to the same goal. You test that. You research it. You have actual results to share. That starts getting the attention of policymakers.

Teresa Wilson: Hm-hmm. [affirmative]

Colleen Quint: And I think that, also, as you get some of those regional clusters, I think there’s, also, tremendous opportunity to work with our legislative delegations at the Federal level, particularly those of us who are from smaller states where you actually have personal relationships with these people and you get, you know, sitting at the table with the members of Maine’s delegation, that’s a pretty straightforward thing for me to be able to do. And when I talk about, not just what I’m doing in Maine, but what they’re doing in New Hampshire, and Vermont, and Connecticut, and Rhode Island, and Massachusetts, and then what’s happening in Indiana and what’s happening in San Francisco, what’s happening in Nevada and Utah, then that begins to get their attention that this is part of a bigger context that’s, not only an okay thing to be a part of, but an exciting thing to be a part of, and I think that tipping point is an important element of it.

Carl Rist: I also want to mention a resource. If you go to see CFEDs website,, you’ll find the Assess and Opportunity Network. This is a network of state and local organizations that are all about asset building, who are working with coalitions to lobby their legislatures or local city council folks to support asset building policy. So, if you want to be part of that or if you want to directly, sort of, advocate, you can check in with those, check on the website. Almost every state has one and certainly, a lot of local communities have a lead agency and that’s your home for this kind of advocacy to reach out to your local elected officials.

Joe Antolin: And if you think about Federal legislation, you’re going to need to have, at least for the foreseeable future, significant amount of support from Republicans. Nevada, Utah, Missouri, now, Indiana are doing stuff with Children’s Savings Accounts. We need more red states, frankly, that are engaging in this and where the community foundations and the children’s advocates, the college completion, your education advocates are focusing on that, so that we have the grass roots proof in the states, as Colleen was saying, where those members will know what’s going on in their state, in order to make this a reality, Federally.

Teresa Wilson: Okay.

Male: I don’t really have a question, but it’s more like an observation or a comment that I would like to share. And so, when you think about the name of this particular part of the day, it’s called What Funding and Policy Opportunities, but the reality, for me, is that before we can get to policies, before we can get to funding, I’m really looking at the issue of people opportunity, right, and the opportunities that people can create together, particularly with the importance of mutual support.

And so, this is a bit of a [unintelligible at 00:08:38] piece, but I think it’s important to note, what has transpired in New England would not have happened without the authentic leadership of Colleen Quint. It would have never or–and let me give you an example of exactly what I mean by that and the importance of this mutual support piece, particularly thinking about mutual clusters, because I think many of us are often times doing this work and, frankly, you get a little lonely, you know.

And I really think being part of something bigger than yourself matters, right, and history dictates that, demonstrates that. But, a couple of things, we talked about creating this critical maps. So, last year, quick story, got me involved and I got a little bit of time on my hands, so I’m looking for something to do. Ding, ding, ding, ding. So, what came open? We called it our [unintelligible at 00:09:26]. Right? That’s really what we thought. So, some are luck. And so, Colleen and I, between June and August, I think it was. Right, Colleen?

Colleen Quint: Yeah, we did one in October.

Male: We did one in October. So, what we did is we went around to each one’s state legislatures, right, at the invitation of eight key state champion. She, already, then, brought in the, what I call the typical and the atypical subjects or folks, and we came and we did a three hour teaching or a four hour teaching, just depending on what their needs were, to talk about three critical issues that we thought were important. And one, maybe if I get this right, Education and Savings. Yes, ma’am. And underneath one of each one of those, she created questions that were pragmatic questions that thinly veiled policy discussions, as you suggested before. That was so important to us, as a region, for so many different ways. It attuned things that I think were critical to our success.

Number one, it allowed states to get a look at their experience, so everyone benefited from the same common, kind of, information, and they all began sharing common language across the states. That really mattered. Number two, it connected each other to everybody’s efforts. You know, so, they created a cohort of people who could then reach out to one another in this mutual supportive type of way. And I would argue that lastly, what it did is it allowed this small group of people to then really begin to feel as if it gains. Like I said earlier, there is something bigger than themselves.

This is a very long winded discussion to talk about the importance of authentic leadership, and if you’re going to bring people into the effort, I think it’s really important that we look at what I call stage leaders, like the [unintelligible at 00:11:04], like the Michael [unintelligible at 00:11:05], frankly, like the Colleen Quints, you know, of the world and say, “Can we take you on tour, too?” Talk to the people who don’t know about this work, because, often times, I’ve already taught these things to the public, right. And that’s okay and that’s necessary. We should do that.

Teresa Wilson: Hm-hmm. [affirmative].

Male: But how do we get the non-typical folks in the room that need to hear this message, because, frankly, we can all argue this regardless of what side of the aisle one chooses to sit on. I live in a purple state, I can argue it. Many people live in a red state, you can talk about pulling yourself up by the bootstraps. If I live in a blue state, we can talk about everybody’s method from a progressive nature of what these CSAs are.

So, it depends on who you approach. Again, I think we cannot get away from the importance of recognizing leadership, authentic leadership, and what we can do at, especially at a regional level, and we’d be a hub and spoke type of strategy that we’ve adopted, at least in New England. Sorry.

Carl Rist: Right on, yeah. No, we should, also, mention, too, Jose Secaros [phonetic] has done so much with the cities around the country, so that’s also–I mean the people power in the world, I think, of leadership is absolutely critical, so good point.

Teresa Wilson: Questions?

Mike Eggleston: Mike Eggleston, St. Louis Fed. So, I want to ask a question. You touched on Nevada’s’ incorporating this. They’re using the fees from the 529 accounts to fund these Child Savings Accounts. What’s holding other states back from doing the exact same thing?

Joe Antolin: Lynn, would that be...

Carl Rist: Yeah, [unintelligible at 00:12:37]. My sense is that some states have already utilized those few remedies. They got it sort of budgeted, but other states have figured out a way to, sort of, unleash this. So, yeah, but Lynn and Linda–

Joe Antolin: And I think some states it’s just those are the political supporters or the powers that are elected, and they’re not about to bring back any fees from those handling the money.

Lynn Morg: This is Lynn Morg [phonetic] of the Utah 529 Plan. Depends on the size of the program, so the Nevada plan is the second largest?

Female: Third.

Lynn Morg: Third largest in the country, so they’re able to, you know, self-fund those CSAs. Other plans are much smaller, don’t have those resources.

Beth Miller: Beth Miller from Virginia 529. We’re actually the largest in the country. Largely, it’s because of our relationship with College of America, which is sold nationally. Our challenge is around this notion of excess fee revenues really should go back to our Prepaid Program. So, that’s–

Joe Antolin: What–

Beth Miller: . . . that’s a balancing act within the commonwealth.

Lynn Morg: Can I comment again?

Carl Rist: I mean is there a constituency that’s trying to make the case to you that dollars for, you know, matching low income kids in 529s? I mean, is there an organized effort to that in Virginia?

Beth Miller: We’ve actually started a low to moderate income scholarship program, which is an early commitment thing that it starts in high school, so we’ve made a commitment as an organization to do that, but the legislature would look at us and say, “Those access p revenues could really be plowed back into the prepaids,” because if you know much about prepaids, there aren’t as many as there used to be and there’s a reason. Because of what happened in the financial markets, there aren’t as many of those and so, we need to protect those prepaid account holders from letting our financial markets do over time.

Teresa Wilson: Could you mention the name of your program again?

Beth Miller: Pardon?

Teresa Wilson: Mention the name of the program, again, that you’re with?

Beth Miller: The Early Commitment Scholarship Program–

Teresa Wilson: Hm-hmm. [affirmative]

Beth Miller: . . . is in our SOAR Virginia. It’s a pilot program that was just approved with the permanent program in the last few years.

Teresa Wilson: Okay, plans.

Female: That is the philosophical decision or question about if there is so called access fee revenue that you draw and lower your fees, so–

Joe Antolin: Right.

Female: . . . or pay the fees, you know, and that stays in their college savings accounts.

Joe Antolin: I do think this question of early payment of scholarships talking to some of the community foundations in Indiana, they were surprisingly open about saying it wasn’t that big a decision, once they realized the potential of what had happened with Promise Indiana, to take the money that would have been for a couple of scholarships and use it to seed this. So, there probably are multiple funding streams that can be used in a different way once the case is made, but that goes back to this authentic leadership question.

Colleen Quint: Well, and I think just on the authentic leadership for one second, you know, again, I mentioned this earlier about how collaborative the field is, and Clint talked about, you know, his website that has all the exemplars of their work and the kinds of things that they do, and the things they do in classrooms, and kind of the forms they have. That’s all right in their website. You know, I’ve pulled stuff off the K2C website when I’ve been looking at things.

One of the very first things I did when I came to this job was fly to San Francisco to meet with Jose’s staff to learn about how they were doing it, because they had been doing it a bit longer than us. And even though it’s a different model, there was still a ton that I learned from that. And so, one of the things that I really hope, as we go forward, as we’re trying to grow the field–

Teresa Wilson: Right.

Colleen Quint: . . . that that collaboration still, really, continues and that we don’t lose that. That we continue to be a resource for each other in authentic ways, whatever that might look like. You know, we’ve talked a little bit, yesterday, about some different models of how we might accomplish that. But, I think that that’s a really–you know, I think that’s how the field advances and advances quickly.

In New England, you know, we reached that tipping point, I talked about, really quickly, because of the little tour that Anthony and I did around, and everyone was sharing information with us, and we were sharing it with them, and things moved forward much more quickly, than it might have otherwise. And so, that’s a big benefit of the field where you can get the folks in a room and you can have those conversations.

Bonnie: Hi, Bonnie, from Barry County. And our community foundation is actually looking at our dormant funds. So, the funds that haven’t had any activity in the past three years, we’re delving into those to really look at why we haven’t had activity and can we then move those, because we all have ciphering power over our funds that are community foundations, right? So, what better way to invest those dollars than in an average height in our county. So, when you think about working with your local community foundations, start having that conversation with them. Do you they have some funds that haven’t seen any activity and could they, now, take those dollars and reinvest them in a different way?

Joe Antolin: And the only challenge, of course, is that you might have the money now or for this year and next year to seed it, but do you have it for multiple years, in terms of the community harvest.

Bonnie: That was applied. When you talk to those community foundations, they take it back to their boards and they repurpose the fund to be an endowment fund to forever support the work.

Joe Antolin: Right.

Bonnie: And that’s the piece that we’ve done in Barry County. So, we have our Kick Start to Career Fund that will support every single kindergartner in Barry County, $50.00 per kid, forever and ever and ever. And then, we just had an estate that matured and gifted us half a million dollars for match dollars to incentivize deposits forever. So, that’s the part that I get excited about is that it has to be sustainable. I can’t just walk away from this and hope that it’s in place 10 years from now. I need to know that 13 years from now, when I’m retired, hopefully, that it will be there, it will still be there, and those kids will walk across the stage because they’re going to be whatever it is they choose to be.

Joe Antolin: You’re still here later, right? If you’re still here later, we should talk.

Bonnie: Well, I wasn’t here earlier. Now, I’m here to talk.

Carl Rist: Bonnie, you can’t retire. In fact, we need to clone you and bring–like, we need to install Bonnie in every community foundation around the country because I think this is great leadership–

Joe Antolin: Yes.

Carl Rist: . . . and shows a way that we can really unlock the resources that are there in community foundations across the country to support this work.

Bonnie: And that’s what we’re supposed to do–

Carl Rist: Yup, yup.

Colleen Quint: And I think the other opportunity in community foundations is so many community foundations have, literally, hundreds of these scholarships, and they’re often drawn very, very narrowly.

Joe Antolin: Yup.

Colleen Quint: I want it to be a field hockey player from Brunswick High School who’s going to go into nursing.

Carl Rist: Who wants to study math. Right, yeah.

Colleen Quint: Right? And they’re kind of the old ones. The new ones are, you know, they got more sophisticated about having a broad, but the old ones are sometimes really pretty narrow, and then, they can’t do anything. And so, again, like you were saying, kind of a way to repurpose that.

Bonnie: And this is a way to repurpose that. It’s called an early scholarship.

Carl Rist: Yup.

Colleen Quint: Exactly.

Joe Antolin: That’s right.

Bonnie: And so–

Colleen Quint: I think it’s a genius idea.

Bonnie: . . . just rethinking and being creative about how you have that conversation–

Colleen Quint: Genius idea.

Female: Okay, Bonnie, do you think you could define dormant funds? You lost me there.

Bonnie: So, a fund in the community foundation, so we have over 200 funds. We have 19 funds that have not had any activity, either incoming or distribution from those funds, in the past three years. So, our big hat is in earnings, dividends, and interest earnings, but they have had no distributions nor have they had any contributions.

Female: Why is that?

Bonnie: Well, that’s what we’re looking in to. I don’t know. But, probably the distribution piece is because the distribution is so narrow that there’s nothing that it can distribute to, based on the way that the donor put the wordage inside that vehicle for the fund.

Joe Antolin: Some community foundations, Chicago is one of them, takes a look at that and moves it all into their general–what the staff of the community foundation want to spend the money on. So, you know–

Colleen Quint: This is a better idea.

Carl Rist: It’s when you bought it.

Joe Antolin: Right.

Colleen Quint: Much better idea.

Joe Antolin: Yes.

Teresa Wilson: All right. Any other questions from our audience? Yes.

Female: I’m really intrigued by the discussion–[unintelligible at 00:21:17] in Boston. I’m actually wondering, last year, we all grew a lot since last year’s CFEDs conference and then this year, this great event in St. Louis. And I’m really wondering if we can kind of collaborate to determine some sort of next step, like, if there’s a campaign planning we were talking about, having a technical, like, account, like, technical technology expo.

And then, like, today’s conversation that I’m thinking of, if we can have a foundation of funders oriented event raising the CSA awareness. So, basically, something that’s targeting toward an audience, but talking about how their role could be to support a CSA field. I think if that–because now we all have like everyone coming from different sectors but having just the same interest, I think, we probably would be mature enough, by moving forward, to diversify and then depending on different groups and see how each sector can collaborate more toward that goal.

Teresa Wilson: Go ahead.

Carl Rist: Yeah. And I should say, also, okay, this gives us great ammo for our colleagues in CFEDs. So, you know, CFED’s every two year Assets Learning Conference will be next year in October 2016. And so, we’re hoping to have some kind of a mini-conference on Children’s Savings there, which is one way we can get together, not the only time, but certainly, be a forum for us to get together to continue these great conversations.

Joe Antolin: And New America, and CFED, and National League of Cities, and AFN, and a lot of other–many of us are marketing these and for this purpose, but a lot of us will be continued talking, because the work is, sort of, parallel. It’s aligned. And so, you’re right, we need to keep convening, so that everyone else is aware of what’s going on there.

Teresa Wilson: All right, everyone, the game is over, and we won. So, I want to thank our panel.