More than one-third of Oregon residents don't have enough money in savings to keep them afloat for three months, according to a new national report, and the average family's credit card debt tops $10,000.
The report from the nonprofit Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED) makes recommendations about what states can do to help people improve their financial stability.
It suggests that Oregon keep and expand the state Earned Income Tax Credit for the lowest-wage workers.
The EITC's effects reach beyond the workers and into the community, said Nancy Yuill, who heads Innovative Changes, a Portland-based financial nonprofit organization.
"Financial instability affects all of us," she said, "so an investment in opportunities for our working families, like the Earned Income Tax Credit, really is an investment in our state's economy and in our state's future."
The state EITC is scheduled to end this year. if it isn't renewed in the Oregon Legislature. It currently amounts to 6 percent of the federal EITC.
The governor's budget recommends increasing it to 8 percent, but the report suggests expanding it to 18 percent of the federal amount.
Oregon also has a successful Individual Development Account (IDA) program that helps people save for specific goals, from home ownership or college to a major home repair, and it matches their savings.
A bill in the Legislature would increase the amount of assets people are allowed to have and still qualify for the program.
A small retirement account is the only asset some people have, said Rebekah Barger, IDA program manager at Neighborworks Umpqua, and expanding the IDA program makes sense for them.
"We're stumbling upon situations more and more where people have money in a retirement account, but they can't access that account without a severe penalty, and it is excluding them from participating in the program." Barger said.
The bill, HB 2316, would allow a person with up to $60,000 in a retirement account to qualify for the Oregon IDA savings program as long as he or she meets the other income guidelines.
The CFED "Assets & Opportunity Scorecard" is online at assetsandopportunity.org/scorecard.
Chris Thomas of Oregon News Service prepared this report.