Delaware EARNS Program Board Members Named

Chaired by local entrepreneur and community leader, board scheduled to meet

As directed by the Delaware EARNS Act created by the signing of House Bill 205, members have been appointed to the Delaware EARNS Program Board.

Board members are:

  • Fayetta Blake – Chair
  • Colleen Davis – State Treasurer
  • Rick Geisenberger – Secretary of Finance
  • Christina Haas – Office of the State Insurance Commissioner
  • Ethel Belfon – Department of Labor
  • Donna Vieira – Chair of the Plans Management Board
  • Robert Herrera – Member at Large

Delaware EARNS (Expanding Access for Retirement and Necessary Savings), a State-facilitated, universally available retirement savings plan, providing a convenient way for all workers to save for retirement, requires businesses with more than five employees that don’t currently offer a retirement plan to participate through a simple payroll process.

“I am honored to have been chosen by Governor Carney to chair the Delaware EARNS Program Board,” said Fayetta Blake, the founder and Executive Director of Pathways to Success, Inc., and an entrepreneur with an extensive background in community banking and financial services. “I am excited to work with such committed people on a project that will help secure financial security for Delawareans who currently have no effective way to save.”

The Delaware EARNS Program Board will oversee the initial design and implementation of all administrative aspects of the Delaware EARNS program including, marketing and promotional responsibility, vendor management, and investment oversight.

The inaugural meeting is scheduled for Tuesday October 4, 2022. Details of the meeting including the agenda and how to join virtually or in person can be found on the Delaware Public Meeting Calendar.

“The composition of the Delaware EARNS Program Board could not be stronger given the critical need for the work to be done,” said Treasurer Colleen Davis. “This landmark program could serve up to 150,000 Delawareans, while addressing all three of my top priorities; bolstering retirement security and readiness, creating pathways to economic empowerment, and promoting a culture of financial excellence.”


Implementation of Delaware EARNS to Begin

Signing of HB 205 by Governor Carney allows for next steps

Almost 150,000 Delaware workers got a step closer to secure retirement savings when Governor Carney signed HB 205, the Delaware EARNS Act, into law this morning. With the enactment of the legislation, the Office of the State Treasurer (OST) officially begins building the infrastructure that will drive the landmark retirement program.

Delaware EARNS (Expanding Access for Retirement and Necessary Savings) requires businesses with more than five employees that don’t currently offer a retirement plan to participate through a simple payroll process.

“We’ve worked long and hard to make this program a reality for Delawareans who lack access to an employer-sponsored retirement program,” said State Treasurer Colleen Davis. “I am grateful to Representative Larry Lambert, Senator Nicole Poore, all of their colleagues in the General Assembly, the AARP of Delaware, and of course the Governor for helping us get here.”

OST will hire an executive director who will guide the operation of the program and work with the Delaware EARNS Program Board, established by the legislation to oversee initial design and implementation of the program. The Board will consist of the State Treasurer, Secretary of Finance, Insurance Commissioner, Secretary of Labor, and chairperson of the Plans Management Board, each of whom may appoint a designee, as well as two members of the public chosen by the Governor.

“It shouldn’t matter what your background or job is: every Delawarean deserves the opportunity to enter into retirement with economic dignity and security,” said Rep. Lambert, D-Claymont, prime sponsor of the legislation. “For small businesses and the almost 150,000 Delaware workers lacking an employer-sponsored saving program, the Delaware EARNS program will be financially transformative, allowing residents to save for the future while filling a critical need in the marketplace. This new program will put thousands of working Delawareans on a level playing field when it comes to their financial future, and I am excited to see it in action.”

“While every Delaware worker deserves to enjoy their golden years, nearly one in five of our neighbors currently won’t be able to achieve the dream of a financially secure retirement, simply because their employer does not offer a retirement savings plan like a 401(k),” said Sen. Nicole Poore, D-New Castle, the Senate prime sponsor of HB 205. “I want to thank Rep Lambert and Treasurer Davis for recognizing that we can do better for Delaware’s working families. The Delaware EARNS Act signed into law today is a win for thousands of workers who will be able to sleep tonight with the peace of mind that comes from knowing they are on a stable path to a more financially secure future. It’s a win for the hundreds of small businesses that will be on a more even playing field with the major corporations that can afford to provide these competitive benefits, and it’s a win for Delaware’s middle class by bringing a financially secure retirement within reach for nearly 150,000 of our neighbors.”

AARP Delaware, its staff, and its more than 187,000 members advocated for the creation and passage of Delaware EARNS.

“The pandemic has shown how vital it is for Americans to have savings to depend on. We must make it easier for workers to save so they can take control of their future,” said AARP Delaware State Director Lucretia Young. “AARP was pleased to work alongside our State Treasurer to help provide an easy pathway for workers to start building a safety net and grow the savings they need for a more secure future.”

More information about Delaware EARNS can be found at de.gov/earns.


Celebrating National ABLE to Save Month

August marks “ABLE to Save Month,” and Delaware State Treasurer Colleen Davis wants to use the opportunity to celebrate Delawareans with disabilities and the freedom, independence, and possibilities their ABLE accounts provide.

ABLE (Achieving a Better Life Experience) plans allow individuals with disabilities and their families to save for a broad range of expenses on a tax-advantaged basis without jeopardizing their benefits from supplemental security income (SSI), Medicaid and other state and federal programs.

“Since taking office, I have focused on three main priorities: bolstering retirement security and readiness, creating pathways to economic empowerment, and promoting a culture of financial excellence,” Treasurer Davis said, “and it’s important to remember those are my priorities for all Delawareans, including those with disabilities. I’m proud that our own ABLE program, DEPENDABLE, provides a way for those with disabilities to save for the future.”

People with disabilities who receive SSI benefits may not have more than $2,000 to remain eligible for SSI and Medicaid. This limitation makes it difficult for many people with disabilities to live the independent lives they deserve and desire.

“A DEPENDABLE account offers solutions that empower our most vulnerable residents to make long-term planning decisions,” Davis said. “The ability to save creates independence by promoting the importance of financial wellness.”

As of June 30, 2022, DEPENDABLE held 242 funded accounts with assets totaling more than $2.1 million.

In addition to the existing benefits of a DEPENDABLE account, Delawareans who save with DEPENDABLE now also receive a deduction on their state income tax.

“A new law passed by the General Assembly establishes a tax deduction of up to $5,000 ($10,000 for couples filing a joint return) for contributions to DEPENDABLE accounts,” Davis said. “I thank the members of the General Assembly and Governor Carney for joining me in helping people with disabilities and those that support them.”

For more information about DEPENDABLE, visit able.delaware.gov, or visit the National Association of State Treasurers to learn more about ABLE Savings Plans.


Money Still Available for Foster Youth to Pursue Higher Education

Ten days remain before application deadline

The application period for the new ASPIRE529 program, which provides $529 for foster youth aging out of the system to use for expenses related to continuing their education, closes July 31, 2022.

“Many young adults face a lot of financial obstacles as they head out into the ‘real world’ for the first time,” said Delaware State Treasurer Colleen Davis. “Those aging out of foster care often face additional struggles related to things like housing and health care. How to pay for education shouldn’t be an extra burden.”

Up to 20 awards of $529 are available on a first-come, first-served basis following review and approval of applications by the Office of the State Treasurer.

To be eligible for an award, a student must:

  • Be under age 26, and:
    • At least 14 years old and currently in Department of Services for Children, Youth, & Their Families (DSCYF) Custody (foster care); or
    • Exited DSCYF Custody to adoption or guardianship at the age of 16 years or older; or
    • Aged out of foster care in Delaware at age 18.
  • Complete a current-year Delaware Aspire529 application prior to the deadline. (July 31st)
  • Be a Delaware resident.
  • Be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident, or approved refugee.
  • Be an undergraduate student.
  • Show proof of enrollment or attendance at an institution of higher learning or trade school, AND if already attending, must be making satisfactory academic or vocational progress toward completion of that program. Proof of enrollment or attendance can be requested through your school’s registrar or administrative offices.

In addition to the $529, recipients will receive two private financial coaching sessions thanks to a partnership with $tand By Me®.

The online application can be found at de.gov/aspire529.


Treasurer Davis to Help Fund New Education Accounts

Qualified accounts to receive $100 contribution

Continuing her commitment to make saving for higher education easier, Delaware State Treasurer Colleen Davis announces the “First State, First Steps” program.

“I have said time and time again that it’s never too early to save for college and ‘First State, First Steps’ will help people get started,” Davis said. “I know families with young children have competing financial priorities, so we want to help them get started.”

“First State, First Steps” is an incentive program for Delawareans. The program provides for a $100 contribution to a DE529 Education Savings Plan account opened between July 1, 2022, and December 31, 2022.

In addition to the account being opened during the applicable time period, in order to qualify for the $100 incentive:

  • The beneficiary must be five years of age or younger at the time of account opening
  • The beneficiary must be a Delaware resident at the time the account is opened
  • A minimum contribution of at least $100.00 must be made to the DE529 account when the account is opened

Delaware’s 529 Plan is sponsored by the State of Delaware and managed by Fidelity Investments. The Plan provides tax-advantaged accounts designed to help parents, grandparents and others pay for higher education expenses.

The cost of a four-year public college has increased 225% over the last 30 years, according to the College Board. Each year it becomes harder and harder for families to afford a quality education without setting themselves up for years of student loans payments.

“The student loan balance for Delawareans averages more than 37-thousand dollars,” Davis said. “Proper saving can help students graduate without facing years of loan payments allowing them to save for other financial goals including a home, car, and retirement.”

Money in a DE529 account grows on a tax deferred basis, and withdrawals for qualified education expenses like tuition, fees, and books are federal and Delaware income tax-free.

For more information on the “First State, First Steps Program,” visit 529.delaware.gov.