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CSREES Provides Leadership in Recent America Saves Week Pilot

Jennifer Martin, CSREES Staff, (202) 720-8188

WASHINGTON, May 1, 2007 USDA's Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service (CSREES) recently helped lead an America Saves Week campaign to encourage Americans to build wealth instead of debt.

"Extension educators again demonstrated that they are effective leaders for promoting household saving," said Jane Schuchardt, national program leader for CSREES' Economic and Community Systems Unit. "In 23 states, these educators carried out America Saves Week activities that, we estimate, reached more than one million households," she added. CSREES is the federal partner in the nationwide Cooperative Extension System.

America Saves Week 2007 was a new initiative designed to test strategies locally in preparation for building a nationwide America Saves Week in 2008. Through information, advice, and encouragement, educators assisted those who wished to pay down debt, build an emergency fund, save for a home, save for an education, or save for retirement. Extension-led efforts in 20 states and 30 local America Saves campaigns o ver the past several years have enrolled nearly 20,000 participants who have saved an estimated $10 million.

Local and state extension educator efforts often involved working with a broad array of educational, non-profit, government and financial services groups; the use of news media and payroll stuffers; the organization of a financial seminar and efforts to enroll savers. To date, 13 reporting extension offices estimated reaching about 80,000 persons directly and 1.2 million through news media.

  • Extension offices in 20 counties in Tennessee organized Tennessee Saves Week, in which the governor and state legislators were active. Activities included payroll stuffers to 23,000 University of Tennessee employees, Piggy Bank pageants for youth and local save-your-change contests, distribution of video public service announcements and TV news features, worksite and tax refund promotions and school-based savings education.
  • To help launch the new Tampa Bay Saves program and enroll 400 savers, the Hillsborough and Pinellas County Extension educators organized a broad coalition, which sponsored a series of motivational workshops.
  • The Okaloosa County Extension office in Florida mobilized their Okaloosa Saves coalition behind a Piggy Bank Beauty Pageant (for youth), and a Saves seminar to enroll 500 savers.
  • As part of New Jersey Saves Week, which sought to enroll 250 savers, a coalition including Rutgers University Research and Extension sent 85,000 payroll stuffers to state employees and organized other activities to promote saver enrollment, the use of the new split tax refund option and the opening and maintenance of savings accounts.
  • San Diego County Extension worked with 10 other groups to organize a San Diego Saves Week, in which extension sent payroll stuffers and intranet messages to 18,500 county employees.

These and other03/30/2009ica Saves Week Extension Leadership Team, which included Schuchardt, Jennifer Abel (Virginia), Sharon Gilbert (Alabama), Barbara O'Neill (New Jersey), Cecilia Loibl (Ohio) and Joan Goodman (New Mexico). The team prepared an America Saves Week guide for extension educators that provided detailed advice about organizing local or state savings weeks.

Some members of this team and others recently spent a day assessing the 2007 pilot programs and planning for 2008.

"As always, Cooperative Extension stepped up to provide much-needed leadership for new America Saves initiatives," said Nancy Register , America Saves national coordinator. "We can't wait to see what extension educators will develop for our 2008 America Saves Week," she added.

America Saves is a nationwide campaign to encourage savings by low- to moderate- income households. For more information, go to www.americasaves.org.

CSREES advances knowledge for agriculture, the environment, human health and well-being, and communities by supporting research, education, and extension programs in the Land-Grant University System and other partner organizations. For more information, visit http://www.csrees.usda.gov.