Southern Bancorp Community Partners COO, Karama Neal, (second from left) was a presenter at the St. Louis Fed’s recent panel, What It’s Worth: Building more financially prosperous Arkansans through savings and education. The event was sponsored by the St. Louis Federal Reserve and the Arkansas Asset Funders Network.
Neal, who manages general operations at Southern Bancorp Community Partners (SBCP), a 501(c)3 financial development organization and loan fund that works in partnership with Southern Bancorp to promote economic mobility in rural and underserved communities in Arkansas and Mississippi, spoke about SBCP’s latest tax related savings program, Split, Save and Win. Southern promotes the sweepstakes during its annual Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, through which Southern volunteers prepare tax returns free of charge.
Split, Save and Win works by encouraging people to save a portion of their tax refund. To enter, taxpayers simply complete IRS Form 8888 and designate a portion of their refund to go into savings. Those who choose to save, have their name entered into a weekly cash prize drawing as well as one grand prize drawing at the end of tax season, all with the goal of encouraging and promoting savings habits.
“For over a decade, we’ve had great success with our VITA program, filing more than 21,000 returns with more than $42 million in refunds going back into the community, of which half was EITC (one of the largest poverty reduction measures in the country),” said Neal. “By connecting these taxpayers with a savings mechanism like Split, Save and Win, we are able to offer them a unique, easy and fun way to save for the future.”
According to the CFED’s Assets and Opportunity Scorecard, more than half of the families in Arkansas and Mississippi do not have enough savings to subsist for three months at the poverty line. Tax time savings promotions such as Southern’s Split, Save and Win can help ensure families are prepared for economic setbacks.
“For many families, tax time is the perfect time to save, whether for an emergency or a planned purchase, yet nearly two-thirds of Split, Save and Win participants had never previously saved at tax time,” said Neal. “For many of these individuals, the $300 they save at tax time could mean the difference between self-sufficiency and financial disaster.”
To learn more about Southern’s VITA program, visit https://banksouthern.com/vita/
To learn more about the Arkansas Asset Funders Network, visit http://assetfunders.org/network/arkansas/
To learn more about the Community Development efforts of the St. Louis Fed, visit https://www.stlouisfed.org/community-development