Categories

Small Business Restart Grant (SBRG) Program

 

Application Deadline: Open until all program funds are expended.

The SBRG Program is providing grants between $5,000 and $50,000 to eligible business owners located within Berks County, but outside the City of Reading.

Grant award amounts will vary and be based on the small business’ annual gross revenues (see below).

ELIGIBLE BUSINESSES GRANT AMOUNT
Annual Gross Revenue Available Per Business
Up to $50,000 $5,000
$50,001 – $75,000 $10,000
$75,001 – $100,000 $15,000
$100,001 – $250,000 $20,000
$250,001 – $500,000 $25,000
$500,001 – $750,000 $35,000
$750,001 – $850,000 $40,000
$850,001 – $1,000,000 $50,000

Grant must be used to cover the following business-related expenses:

• Rent/mortgage payments for business location
• Payroll costs
• Inventory or supply costs
• Utilities costs

Small businesses that meet these requirements are encouraged to apply:

• Privately held, for-profit businesses located in Berks County but outside the city of Reading
• Small businesses with 2 – 8 employees
• Businesses with gross revenues of $1,000,000 or less
• Businesses that can demonstrate hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic
• Businesses that agree to develop, implement and enforce a “public health and safety reopening plan”

We will be accepting applications on our website starting on June 29th. Detailed eligibility requirements and additional information will be posted on our website.

The City of Reading has its own version of the program. If your business is located within the City, please go to the readingpa.gov website for more info.

Any other questions can be directed to SBRLBerksCty@nhsgb.org

Are we accepting paper applications?

To protect the public and county employees, all nonessential County offices are closed, so we are accepting and processing applications remotely. However, under special circumstances (e.g., ADA accommodations, other documented special needs, etc.), Neighborhood Housing Services of Greater Berks will accept paper applications on a case-by-case basis.

Download SBRG Program Application 3-in-1 Forms

Eligible Grant Applicants

  • For-Profit Businesses with a minimum of one (1) business owner and at least one (1) full-time equivalent (FTE) employee, but no more than one (1) owner and eight (8) full-time equivalent (FTE) employees as of January, 2020 will be eligible (NOTE: For purpose of determining eligibility for the SBRG Program, the term “one [1] business owner” shall include all natural persons with an ownership interest in the entity applying for the grant regardless of the number of owners or percentage of ownership interest therein. For example, four [4] natural persons who are shareholders/members/partners in the Applicant Business constitute “one [1] business owner” even if paid as employees of the Applicant Business for the purpose of determining eligibility of the Applicant Business);
  • For-Profit Businesses with a maximum of 8 FTE employees will be determined and met with a combination of full-time and part-time employees (i.e., 8 FTE average number of employees, and not including the business owner);
  • For purposes of Berks County’s Small Business Restart Grant (SBRG) Program, a full-time equivalent (FTE) employee is someone employed by the business owner(s) who works a regular schedule of 35 or more hours per week (Source: U.S. Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division);
  • For-Profit Businesses with annual gross revenues of $1,000,000 or less (based on the most recent Federal Tax returns data);
  • For-Profit Business owners who operate a business primarily in a municipality of Berks County and outside the City of Reading;
  • For-Profit Businesses must have a physical address in a municipality within the corporate limits of Berks County (and outside the City of Reading);
  • For-Profit Businesses must be incorporated/organized in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, or registered to conduct business in the Commonwealth;
  • For-Profit Businesses must have a current, valid business license and/or required permit(s) to transact commercial activity legally within their industry sector, and as required by their municipality, Berks County, and/or the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (NOTE: Most business licenses can be obtained by filing Form PA-100, Pennsylvania Enterprise Registration, and license and permit authority [i.e., licenses for certain type of businesses, and permits for building, electrical, plumbing, occupancy, zoning, health, etc.] rests with the individual municipalities, and are all issued locally, not by Berks County);
  • For-Profit Businesses shall agree to retain a minimum of one (1) full-time equivalent (FTE) employee which is available to or held by LMI persons—as defined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development—by March, 2021;
  • For-Profit Businesses shall expend all grant funds to restart and reopen their businesses by December 31, 2020;
  • For-Profit Businesses shall enroll in and complete the Greater Reading Chamber Alliance’s (GRCA’s) three-part “Best Practices for Re-Opening Your Business Certificate Program” by no later than December 31, 2020;
  • For-Profit Businesses shall certify to the development, implementation, and enforcement of his/ her/their business’ “Public Health and Safety Reopening Plan” to mitigate the spread of COVID-19; and
  • Only one business grant will be awarded to an eligible business owner(s) who owns multiple businesses with 51 percent controlling interest in Berks County.

Permitted Uses of Grant Funds for Restarting Business Operations and Related Expenses:

  • Rent/Mortgage Payment – business location expenses from July 1, 2020 forward.
  • Payroll Costs – personnel expenses from July 1, 2020 forward.

NOTE: No more than 15% of eligible payroll costs can be used to pay the business owner(s) beyond what was previously reported for annual income on federal and state tax returns, and/or most recent financial records (e.g., balance sheet, P&L Statement, payroll records, W-2 Forms, etc.).

  • Inventory or Supplies Costs – expenses needed to restart business operations from July 1, 2020 forward.
  • Utilities Costs – expenses to reopen business operations from July 1, 2020 forward. Utilities must be directly tied to the business operations and/or physical location.

Required Supporting Documents to be Submitted with Grant Application

 

  • Before you apply for this program, kindly collect, organize, and label all required documents.
  • If you have all of your documents, the application process will be easier and less time-consuming to finish and submit electronically.

 

Please complete the online application through the Neighborhood Housing Services of Berks County website, and upload the following required documents:

 

  1. Copy of most recently filed Business Tax Return;
  2. 2020 Year-to-Date (YTD) by month profit and loss statement;
  3. Submit an employee form for at least one (1) low-to-moderate income (LMI), full-time equivalent (FTE) employee that you intend to retain, which may include both full-time or part-time employees. To retain an employee, please complete the “Employee Staffing Form” (Enclosed);
  4. Business Owner(s) statement that describes and explains how your business suffered and/or experienced economic hardship by the COVID-19 pandemic (Please limit your response to 250 words);
  5. Permission to check the credit history, credit bureau ratings, and/or FICO scores of the business’ owner(s);
  6. Copy of your current and valid business license; and
  7. Copy of all federal, state, and local business financial assistance received (e.g., approval letters, loan documents, etc.) to reopen and restart business operations due to COVID-19.

NOTE: Attach/upload electronically or submit copies in-person of funding assistance received

(e.g.,  from business insurance, FEMA, SBA, private loan, line of credit, charitable institution funding sources, etc.) with your required SBRG Program application documents.

 

In summary, all submitted materials will be used to determine the business’ eligibility for grant funding.  Only complete applications will be considered for a decision.

Summary and Analysis of Federal CARES Act Eviction Moratorium

Click here to download this information

Summary and Analysis of Federal CARES Act Eviction Moratorium
On March 27, 2020, the president signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (“CARES Act”) into law. The law includes important, immediate protections for tenants and homeowners. The federal eviction moratorium for tenants living in certain types of housing is summarized below. NHLP is working on a separate analysis regarding the provisions for homeowners.

I. What does the federal eviction moratorium do?
The eviction moratorium operates by restricting lessors of covered properties (discussed in more detail below) from filing new eviction actions for non-payment of rent, and also prohibits “charg[ing] fees, penalties, or other charges to the tenant related to such nonpayment of rent.” Sec. 4024(b). The federal moratorium also provides that a lessor (of a covered property) may not evict a tenant after the moratorium expires except on 30 days’ notice—which may not be given until after the moratorium period. See Sec. 4024(c).

The federal eviction moratorium does not affect cases:
a) that were filed before the moratorium took effect or that are filed after it sunsets
b) thatinvolvenon-coveredtenancies(seebelow),or
c) where the eviction is based on another reason besides nonpayment of rent or
nonpayment of other fees or charges.

The moratorium does not explicitly state whether evictions “for nonpayment of rent or other fees or charges” includes evictions motivated by a tenant’s nonpayment of rent (or other fees or charges) but formally based on a “no-cause” lease termination notice or refusal to renew a term tenancy. Sec. 4024(b)(1). However, advocates should assert that the moratorium bars the filing of any eviction case that is motivated (wholly or in part) by a tenant’s nonpayment of rent or other fees or charges, whether or not the action is formally based on such non-payment. Allowing landlords to skirt the moratorium by using “no cause” eviction cases for delinquent rent or fees would frustrate the purpose of the statute. And, such a reading would lead to an absurd result, because a landlord could more quickly and easily evict a tenant without cause during the moratorium period than after the moratorium expires (at which point a 30-day notice would be required).

For cases that are not barred (or not clearly barred) by the federal moratorium, advocates should next check to see whether any state or local eviction moratorium protects the client. Advocates should also check to see if any state or local moratorium provides more expansive protections than provided by the federal moratorium.

II. What types of housing are covered by the federal eviction moratorium?
The eviction moratorium applies to “covered dwellings,” which includes those dwellings on or in “covered properties.” Sec. 4024(a). The Act defines a “covered property” as a property that: (1) participates in a “covered housing program” as defined by the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) (as amended through the 2013 reauthorization); (2) participates in the “rural housing voucher program under section 542 of the Housing Act of 1949”; (3) has a federally backed mortgage loan; or (4) has a federally backed multifamily mortgage loan. See Sec. 4024(a)(2).

More discussion about each of these categories follows.

A. VAWA Covered Housing Programs

The eviction moratorium extends to federal housing rental programs covered by VAWA (34 U.S.C. § 12491(a)). The moratorium itself does not impact VAWA housing protections, but referencing the VAWA statute was presumably a quick way to extend coverage to most federally assisted rental housing programs. VAWA-covered housing programs include the following1:

Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)2

Public housing (42 U.S.C. § 1437d)
Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program (42 U.S.C. § 1437f)
Section 8 project-based housing (42 U.S.C. § 1437f)
Section 202 housing for the elderly (12 U.S.C. § 1701q)3
Section 811 housing for people with disabilities (42 U.S.C. § 8013)
Section 236 multifamily rental housing (12 U.S.C. § 1715z–1)
Section 221(d)(3) Below Market Interest Rate (BMIR) housing (12 U.S.C. §
17151(d))
HOME (42 U.S.C. § 12741 et seq.)
Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA) (42 U.S.C. § 12901, et
seq.)
McKinney-Vento Act homelessness programs (42 U.S.C. § 11360, et seq.)4

1 Each program includes its corresponding statutory cite for the reader’s convenience when reading 34 U.S.C. § 12491(a).
2 Note that the Housing Trust Fund (HTF) is not covered by the VAWA statute, even though HUD did extend its VAWA rulemaking authority to cover HTF. See e.g., Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013: Implementation in HUD Housing Programs, Final Rule, 81 Fed. Reg. 80,724, 80,732 (Nov. 16, 2016).
3 Note that, under HUD’s interpretation, Section 202 Direct Loan properties without Section 8 contracts are not covered by VAWA housing protections. See e.g., 81 Fed. Reg. at 80,732-33.
4Due to what is presumably a drafting error in the VAWA 2013 statute, the VAWA statutory text at 34 U.S.C. § 12491(a)(3)(D) does not refer to a specific program, as there is no program at “subtitle A of title IV of the 2

Department of Agriculture

Section 515 Rural Rental Housing (42 U.S.C. § 1485)
Sections 514 and 516 Farm Labor Housing (42 U.S.C. §§ 1484, 1486)
Section 533 Housing Preservation Grants (42 U.S.C. § 1490m)
Section 538 multifamily rental housing (42 U.S.C. § 1490p-2)

Department of Treasury

Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) (26 U.S.C. § 42)

For programs that fund units (rather than tenant-based subsidies), advocates can use resources such as the National Housing Preservation Database to determine what type of housing a client is living in.

B. Rural Housing Voucher Program
The evictions moratorium also extends to “the rural housing voucher program under section 542 of the Housing Act of 1949 (42 U.S.C. 1490r).” Sec. 4024(a)(2)(A)(ii). The separate inclusion of this program was necessary because the Rural Housing Voucher Program was omitted from the covered housing programs in the 2013 VAWA reauthorization statute.

C. Properties with federally backed mortgage loans (1-4 units)
Federally backed mortgage loans are defined to include loans secured by any lien on residential properties having 1-4 units and that are “made in whole or in part, or insured, guaranteed, supplemented, or assisted in any way, by any officer or agency of the Federal Government or under or in connection with a housing or urban development program administered by [HUD] or a housing or related program administered by any other such officer or agency, or is purchased or securitized by the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation or the Federal National Mortgage Association.” Sec. 4024(a)(4). Note that there is a differently worded definition of the term “federally backed mortgage loan” in Sec. 4022(a)(2) of the Act where the term is defined in terms of a finite list of federal agencies and loan programs5 in contrast to the more sweeping language here. It is not entirely clear if these two definitions of the same term are intended to cover the same set of loans, but the definition of “federally backed mortgage loan” in the eviction moratorium provisions is arguably much broader, so advocates should assert that a tenant is protected by the moratorium even if the landlord’s mortgage is not known to be a HUD, VA, USDA or Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac loan.

McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act.” However, HUD concluded in 2013 that “it was Congress’s intent to include the programs found elsewhere in title IV, which include the Emergency Solutions Grants program, the Continuum of Care program, and the Rural Housing Assistance Stability program.” The Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013: Overview of Applicability to HUD Programs, Notice, 78 Fed. Reg. 47,717, 47,719 n.4 (Aug. 6, 2013).
5 The definition in Sec. 4022(a)(2) — which applies to the provisions in the Act regarding payment relief and a foreclosure moratorium for homeowners — includes all loans that are owned, insured or guaranteed by one of the following entities: HUD (including Federal Housing Administration loans, reverse mortgages and certain loans under programs for Native Americans and Native Hawaiians); the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Agriculture and Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.
3
Landlords should know or have access to the information necessary to determine whether their properties have federally backed mortgage loans. Such resources include the note or mortgage instruments themselves, other closing documents, servicing notices, account statements, or other correspondence, as well as loan look-up websites for both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Since tenants will often not have access to that information, advocates should assert that a landlord who files an eviction suit (for nonpayment of rent) during the federal moratorium period must plead and prove that the property is not subject to a federally backed mortgage loan.
If necessary, an advocate might be able to determine if a property has a federally-backed mortgage loan by reviewing the contents of any mortgages, deeds of trust, or other instruments recorded for a property. However, not all federally-related loans will have a public filing that identifies the loan as federally-backed. In many communities, only some—if any—land records may be available on line, and records offices may be closed to the public for reasons related to the pandemic. Even if available to the public, such records may not be up-to-date.

D. Properties with federally backed multifamily mortgage loans (5+ units)
A federally backed multifamily mortgage loan has the same definition as “federally-backed mortgage loan,” but is secured by a property with five or more dwelling units. See Sec. 4024(a)(5).

III. How long is the federal eviction moratorium in effect?

The federal eviction moratorium took effect on March 27, 2020 and extends for 120 days. See Sec. 4024(b). Landlords that receive forbearances of federally backed multifamily mortgage loans must respect identical renter protections for the duration of the forbearance. See Sec. 4023(d).

For more resources and any updates to this memo, please visit NHLP’s COVID-19 Resources Webpage.

Partnership support from Fulton Bank

$5K to provide homeownership education in Berks County.

Fulton

Home buyer education fee

Beginning in January of 2020, there will be a fee of $25.00 per participant to attend our home buyer education workshops.

In order for Neighborhood Housing Services of Greater Berks Inc. (NHSGBI) to continue working towards self-sufficiency, starting on January 1st, 2020 we are going to be implementing a twenty-five-dollar ($25.00) non- refundable registration fee for every client who registers for our homebuyer education classes. This fee will be paid by the client and not the referral partner. Clients will still be able to choose between in person workshop at a $25 fee or online via ehome America with a $125 fee. Self-sufficiency will be the key for the continued growth and stability of NHSGBI. We hope with your support we can continue this journey.

*Fee is non-refundable.

$25 will help us go a long way

Hi friends. Our mission at Neighborhood Housing Services of Greater Berks Inc (NHSGBI) is to promote affordable housing to members of the community we serve. We do this via our lending and counseling programs we offer. We invite you to come in and learn more about our agency: Who we are, what we do and why we do what we do. We would also like to ask you for your support. Help us make the “$25 will help us a long way” campaign a success. By donating $25 you will help us continue doing the work we do. We would love to have your support and for you to be part of the success of our agency. After all, our success is the success of our community.

Please click “donate” or send a check/money order to NHS of Greater Berks Inc. 213 N 5th. St. Suite 1030 Reading PA 19601.

We thank you very much for your support.

NeighborhoodLIFT program off to a good start

Housing Affordability Philanthropy

NeighborhoodLIFT® Summary Report: Pittsburgh, PA – Allegheny County

NeighborhoodLIFT® is a collaborative effort between Wells Fargo, local nonprofits, and NeighborWorks® America (NWA). The program provides down payment assistance grants, homebuyer counseling and education, as well as Local Initiatives, and LIFT the Block grants focused on supporting efforts to revitalize housing markets. LIFT programs have provided $494 million to advance sustainable homeownership and support the revitalization of communities since 2012, with homebuyers purchasing more than $3 billion in real estate nationally. Wells Fargo has conducted 77 LIFT program events in the U.S. since 2012, creatingmore than 22,400 homeowners.

The NeighborhoodLIFT program for Pittsburgh, PA – Allegheny County follows Wells Fargo’s announcement in June of an evolution in the company’s philanthropic strategy, which includes a $1 billion commitment over the next six years to address the U.S. housing affordability crisis.

Press Event

The Press Event took place on October 29 in the living room of a rehabilitated affordable home in Pittsburgh, PA. More than 30 were in attendance representing four organizations. All four local TV stations and the main radio station and newspaper were in attendance. Speakers included Tiffany Tavarez, Wells Fargo Community Relations Senior Consultant; Nick Bruno, PCG Market Manager; County Executive Richard Fitzgerald, Allegheny County; Mayor Bill Peduto, City of Pittsburgh; and Colin Kelley, CEO, NeighborWorks Western Pennsylvania (WPA).

Community Conversation and Realtor Event

The Community Conversation and Realtor Event took place October 30 at the Westin Pittsburgh. Twenty people representing 15 organizations attended the Community Conversation and 20 realtors attended the Realtor Event. Key speakers included Tiffany Tavarez, Wells Fargo Community Relations Senior Consultant; Nick Bruno, PCG Market Manager; Stephanie Simon, Wells Fargo Sales Advisory Senior Manager; Chelita Neal, Wells Fargo Community Outreach Rep.; Aldustus Jordan, Wells Fargo Community Relations Senior Manager; and Colin Kelley, CEO, NeighborWorks WPA. Additional Wells Fargo attendees at these events included Jim Baum, Regional Communications; Tim Coy, Community Outreach Manager; Pat Curran, Mortgage Retail Market Manager; Kathryn Laughlin, Mortgage Branch Manager; and Aldustus Jordan, Community Relations Senior Manager.

 

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Highlights

The 2019 Pittsburgh, PA-Allegheny County NeighborhoodLIFT program launch is the first local market approach that incorporates the statewide model launched in Montana, Mississippi, New Mexico, South Dakota, Idaho, and Alaska. The $3.9 million philanthropic investment will help create about 175 homeowners through down payment assistance and homebuyer education. This will boost homeownership and help hundreds of families on the path to sustainable homeownership.

NeighborWorks Western Pennsylvania and Neighborhood Housing Services (NHS) are NeighborWorks Americaaffiliates. They worked with LIFT customers to determine their eligibility for the NeighborhoodLIFT Program. Funds became available in the market on Monday, November 4. In order to access the funds, customers need to have first mortgage approval (from a participating lender) and a fully executed purchase agreement.

Down Payment Assistance Grants

The down payment assistance grants were $15,000. Income for borrowers must not exceed 80% of the local area median income (AMI). The limit for a household of four in Allegheny County is $63,900. An additional $2,500 in down payment assistance for a total of $17,500 is available for military, teachers, and first responders with eligibility requirements including earning up to 100% of the area median income in Allegheny County, which is $79,900 for up to a family of four.

LIFT the Block and Local Initiative Grants

Local Initiatives

$150,000 in NeighborhoodLIFT local initiative grants to support housing affordability and financial health resources in Allegheny County with nonprofits Mon Valley Initiative, Inc., Pittsburgh Housing Development Corporation, and Sisters Place, Inc. each receiving a $50,000 grant.

LIFT the Block

The following nonprofit organizations received financial and Wells Fargo volunteer support for their efforts and focus on neighborhood beautification:

  • $25k – Military Warrior Support Foundation: Wells Fargo team volunteers will rehabilitate a home forfemale veterans attending college or trade school.
  • $75k – Pittsburgh Housing Development Corp: This grant is in support of the Pittsburg Roof-A-Thon. Overa two-week period the roofs of low-income homeowners will be repaired in collaboration with UrbanRedevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh’s Housing Opportunity Fund Department.Homeownership Counseling GrantsUp to $100,000 is available to provide up to 200 interested homebuyers an opportunity for complimentary face-to-face credit counseling by participating HUD-approved agencies. The Home Ownership Counseling initiative is an additional resource and does not meet the homebuyer education requirement for NeighborhoodLIFT program down payment assistance grants.

 

NeighborhoodLIFT Programs

LIFT programs from 2012 through year end 2019

  • 22,500 homeowners
  • LIFT homeowners purchased in 900+ municipalities
  • $500millioninvested
  • Majority of LIFT program homeowners represent low-and moderate-income households
  • $3.36 billion total real estate purchased on an aggregate basis (as of March 2019)

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LIFT programs have been held in states denoted in purple.

 

Media coverage

The Pittsburgh, PA-Allegheny County NeighborhoodLIFT event generated more than 15 stories – all positive news including:

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Headlines:

• Lendingahelpinghand:Newprogramtoaidfirst-timehomebuyersinAlleghenyCountywithdownpayments

  • New Homebuyer Assistance Program to Help Boost Homeownership in Allegheny Co.
  • Western Pennsylvania Homeownership to Get $3.3 Million Boost

 

Thanks to everyone who helped make the77th NeighborhoodLIFT event in Pittsburgh, PA – Allegheny County possible!

Ribbon Ceremony
Ribbon Cutting Ceremony

We are very proud to congratulate our newest homeowner Anna Maria on her new home. Thank you to those that had a part of making this day happen!

 

 

newest home owner
SOLD! Congrats to our newest home owner!

Congrats to our newest homeowner on purchasing your new home and “famous” property. This property (558 S 15th Street) was featured in the John Updyk movie version of his book, RABBIT RUN, back in 1969 – 50 years from today!

 

newest home owner

Rose Weikel
Emergencies don’t have to be financial disasters; start saving now!

Emergencies don’t have to be financial disasters; start saving now!

You’re laid off at work. Your car needs a new transmission. Your furnace blows. These are all costly emergencies that can’t usually be anticipated and cannot be avoided once they occur. Without a fund set aside just for such emergencies, they can trigger even greater disasters.

Last year, NeighborWorks America released the findings of its third annual consumer finance survey. Chief among them is the alarming fact that nearly a third of adult Americans (29 percent) have no emergency savings. Ninety-one percent of those with incomes of $100,000 reported holding emergency savings, compared to just 30 percent of who earn less than $20,000, 63 percent of those with incomes below $40,000 and 78 percent of those with incomes between $40,000 -$50,000.

There also were significant differences by race and education. The highest percentages of households without any emergency savings at all were reported by African-Americans, adults with lower incomes, and among those with a high school education or less.

A good rule of thumb is to have enough funds set aside to cover three to six months (some say four to seven) of living expenses. This will give you enough time, for instance, to find a new job or supplement your unemployment benefits until you do. However, anything in the bank is better than nothing — and $500 will get you out of many scrapes that would otherwise put you in the hole. In other words, start small if you have to, but start.

Here are a few tips:

  • Set up a savings account just for this purpose. Separate it from the accounts you tap into on a regular basis so you’re not tempted to dip into your reserves. Do not get access to it via debit card. And if you are issued a checkbook, hide it.
  • Arrange the automatic deposit of a portion of your paycheck into that savings account. Most employers allow direct deposits into multiple accounts. This is the most painless way to create a regular savings habit; you won’t even notice it! But make sure you’ve created a realistic budget. Otherwise, you’ll be pulling money out of savings regularly to pay bills, defeating the purpose.
  • Keep the change.When you get $1 and $5 bills after breaking a $20, drop some in a jar at home. When the jar fills up, move it into your savings account. And if you have money left after paying your bills at the end of a pay period, move some into your emergency fund.
  • Save your tax refund. The average refund is in the thousands, which can give a good boost to your emergency savings. When you file your taxes, consider having your refund directly deposited into your emergency account. Alternatively, adjust your W-4 tax form so that you have less money withheld, and direct the extra into your emergency fund.
  • Cut back on costs.If you’re still falling short on saving, track your spending for a month to find discretionary expenses you don’t really need. Meals out, stops at coffee shops, drinks with friends all add up fast, but you may not realize how much you’re spending in total until you’ve put it on paper.

Remember: Expenses you should be able to anticipate, such as holiday gifts and annual auto insurance payments, are not emergencies! One of the most common problems people have with emergency funds is forgetting to plan for one-time expenses each year.

Members of the NeighborWorks America network of nonprofit housing and community-development organizations offer financial education and coaching to help you follow these guidelines. Emergencies are upsetting enough. Don’t allow them to turn into financial catastrophes as well.