What Services and Programs does Northwest Access Fund offer?
- Low Interest (5%) Loans up to $25,000 for Assistive Technology and Business Equipment
- Financial coaching for people with disabilities
- Individual Development Accounts (IDA) Matched Savings for Assistive Technology
In addition, we provide tips on what to think about when purchasing AT and business equipment to make sure it is what you need and can use. We help callers to identify other sources of funding and resources to help with money management issues. We provide some of these services directly. In other cases, we may refer you to another agency.
How are Northwest Access Fund’s programs funded?
All Northwest Access Fund programs are supported by generous charitable contributions from individual donors, corporate sponsors, and local and federal grants.
Who can apply for Northwest Access Fund’s low interest loans?
Washington and Oregon residents of all ages with disabilities of all types — including seniors with age-related hearing, vision, mobility and cognitive limitations. We also consider applications from family members, employers and other representatives – as long as the item is purchased for – and owned by – a person with a disability. For Business Equipment loans, applicants also must show that they plan to use the equipment for work related activities.
What can Northwest Access Fund’s Assistive Technology loans be used for?
Assistive Technology loans can be used to purchase any device that helps to improve the functioning of a person with a disability. Examples include: Hearing Aids, Closed Circuit TV magnifiers, wheelchairs, vehicle hand controls and wheelchair lifts, computers with Braille or speech output, and computers with specialized software for individuals with learning disabilities. Loans also can be used to pay for home accessibility modifications (e.g., ramps, bathroom modifications, etc.) and to purchase assistive technology services such as evaluations, training, extended warranties, insurance, maintenance and repair.
What can Northwest Access Fund’s Business Equipment loans be used for?
Business Equipment loans can be used to purchase any type of equipment needed by entrepreneurs and employees with disabilities. Examples include computers, fax machines, copiers, printers and other work-related equipment including adaptive technology. Our Business Equipment loans also can also be used for equipment-related services such as Telecommunications and Internet services, training, maintenance and repair.
How much can I borrow?
Loans can be made for as little as $250. The maximum loan amount is $25,000.
What are the loan terms?
The interest rate is 5.0%. There is no cost to apply. Terms are from one to five years depending upon what you buy and income available to repay the loan.
How do I apply?
To apply with our simple online application or to download the application and mail it in visit our “Apply for Loans” page.
What happens after I submit my application?
Your application will be reviewed by staff to see if it is complete. We also will obtain a credit report and may call you or request an interview. Once the application is complete, it will be submitted to the Loan Review Committee. The Committee meets twice a month. If the Committee approves your application, we will send you a Promissory Note and other “closing” documents. Once these are signed and returned to us, we will send the vendor a check to cover your purchase. If the loan is not approved, we will tell you why and try to help you identify other resources.
What criteria will be used to decide if I get a loan?
Both eligibility and ability to repay must be shown. Eligibility is established when you show that (a) you have a disability and (b) the item you want to buy qualifies as “assistive technology” or business equipment. Ability to repay is evaluated on the basis of income, expenses, current debt levels, availability of other resources and your credit history. For business equipment, we also look at your employment or business plan and work history.
My credit is not great. Will that disqualify me?
If you have poor credit or a history of bankruptcy, your circumstances will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. You will not be automatically disqualified. Our typical borrower has one or more weaknesses that prevent them from accessing loans from a traditional bank. Northwest Access Fund is designed to be more flexible than traditional banks with a focus on the particular needs of borrowers with disabilities. Staff will also help you identify steps you can take to improve your chances of qualifying (e.g., participating in financial counseling, taking care of past due accounts or items in collections).
I want to apply for a Business Equipment loan, but I don’t have a Business Plan; I also need funding for items other than equipment. What should I do?
We would be delighted to give you some help getting started on a business plan and refer you to other resources should you need more assistance. We also will try to help you identify other funding sources to support your employment goals.
My income is very limited and I’ve never taken out a loan before? Can I still apply?
Absolutely, we look at each case individually. In some cases, we may ask for a guarantor. In others, we can offer extended payments and/or a smaller loan.
What is an IDA?
An IDA (Individual Development Account) is a matched savings account. Our IDAs allow low-income households to earn up to $2,000 through consistent monthly saving. The amount an individual saves will be matched dollar for dollar. If the maximum is saved, they would have $4,000 to go towards their specific assistive technology savings goal. There are eligibility guidelines and requirements.
What can I purchase with my IDA?
IDAs can be used to purchase all types of assistive technology. Assistive technology is broadly defined to include any program or device that maintains or enhances the functional capabilities and/or quality of life of an individual with a disability. This includes (but is not limited to): hearing aids, wheelchairs and other mobility devices, vision aids, computers with and without special adaptations and software, cognitive aids, vehicle accessibility modifications and adapted vehicles, and office furniture with modifications for people with disabilities. IDAs also can be used to purchase the services needed to make effective use of an assistive device, such as help with selection, training and repairs.
Who is eligible for the IDA?
- To enroll in our matched saving program, an applicant must show that:
- They are a Washington state resident with a physical, mental or sensory disability, or caring for a child or other family member with a disability;
- Household income at the start of the savings program is equal to or less than 80% of the county median income, adjusted for household size;
- Household net assets at the time of application must be at or below $20,000. “Household net assets” is the total market value of all assets owned in whole or in part by any household member minus total debts or obligations. The value of the primary dwelling unit, one motor vehicle, special needs trusts and similar accounts (including e.g., accounts set up under ABLE Act), and retirement accounts are excluded in calculating net worth;
- The individual account holder must be at least 18 years old when the equipment is purchased. Family members may apply for a person with a disability who will be under 18 when their savings goal is reached;
- The items to be purchased qualify as assistive technology.
How do participants enroll in the IDA?
- Complete and return an IDA application. This can be done online or we can mail you a hard copy.
- Schedule a financial coaching appointment with Northwest Access Fund. The coach will determine whether you would be a good fit for the program and can help you develop achievable savings goals. If you are approved, you will complete a Savings Agreement & other enrollment documents.
- After the enrollment forms are completed, we will help you open a special IDA custodial bank account. Once the account is set up, you must make regular monthly deposits into the account. Deposits can be made by automatic electronic funds transfer on a day of the month of your choosing.
What income can I use to save for the IDA?
You can use any income, including SSI or SSDI.
Is there a deadline for applying?
Qualified applicants will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis. Only a limited number of accounts are available. If no accounts are available, you can be added to a waiting list.
How long do I have to save?
You must save for at least six months before making a purchase to receive the match. Participants can save for a maximum of three years in the program.
If a participant completes the program in less than 3 years, they are welcome to apply again. However, if they are approved to be re-enrolled, the participant’s total time in the IDA program still should not exceed 3 years.
How much can I save?
Participants can save as much as they would like in their IDA accounts, but only up to $2,000.00 maximum will be matched. Once a participant has finished the program, the account will be closed and unused funds remaining in the account will be returned to the client (unmatched).
How does the match happen?
The match occurs at the time of an assistive technology purchase. The match funds will not appear in the IDA account, because we only match funds spent on assistive technology. When a purchase is made, Northwest Access Fund will pay for half of the cost of the assistive technology and the other half will come from funds in the IDA account.
Can the IDA be combined with a low-interest Assistive Technology Loan or a Business Loan from Northwest Access Fund?
Participants also are eligible to apply for a low-interest loan from Northwest Access Fund. However, participation in an IDA savings program does not guarantee loan approval. If approved, the loan can be combined with IDA savings and match to purchase assistive technology.
How will the IDA affect asset or income limits for SSI or other government benefits?
An IDA through Northwest Access Fund will not impact your eligibility or monthly payment for any federal benefit program (e.g. SSI, SSDI, etc.). The savings account we help participants set up is a custodial account. This means the account is held in the name of Northwest Access Fund with the participant as a beneficiary. At the time of an assistive technology purchase, the payment will be made directly to the vendor, meaning that the funds do not pass through the participant’s account. Therefore, neither the savings nor the match will be counted as income and/or assets. It is also important to note that because the IDA is a custodial account, the participant cannot withdraw funds from the account without permission and withdrawal forms from Northwest Access Fund. Participants are limited to 3 emergency withdrawals while they are in the program.
If I change my mind, can I withdraw from the program?
Yes. You must notify us of your decision. We will close your account and send you a check for the funds in your IDA account (not matched). Please note that withdrawal of funds for a non-IDA purpose could impact the amount of, or eligibility for, SSI, Medicaid or other government benefits. Depending on the amount of your withdrawal, we recommend (and may require) that you speak to a benefits planner.
Do you have more questions?
Call Megan Greeley at (206) 328-5116 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.