IDA Matched Savings | Frequently Asked Questions



Does my partner’s or spouse’s income count?

Yes, we look at household income. This includes domestic partnerships, live-in partners and dependents. Roommates do not count toward household income.

What sort of income counts?

All sources of income or benefits count toward your eligibility, whether it is earned or unearned income. The federal government classifies earned income as:

  • Wages, salaries, tips, and other taxable employee pay
  • Union strike benefits
  • Long-term disability benefits received prior to minimum retirement age
  • Money you pay yourself through self-employment

Forms of unearned income are:

  • Interest and dividends
  • Retirement income
  • Social Security
  • Unemployment Benefits
  • Alimony or child support

Does credit history affect my eligibility for the IDA program?

No, we do not look at credit history as part of the eligibility criteria for the IDA program.

Can both my spouse and I get an IDA grant, if our businesses are different?

Both you and your spouse can enroll in the program.

Can both my business partner and I enroll in the IDA program?

Yes. However, only two IDAs are permitted per household.


Do I have to take the classes before applying?

Yes. Applicants must have completed one of following business classes within a year of applying and submit proof of attendance (if the class was taken outside of MCNW).

1) Mercy Corps NW Understand Your Credit Seminar To register, click here.

2) Mercy Corps NW Business Foundations I: To view upcoming classes, click here.

3) Mercy Corps NW Business Foundations II: To view upcoming classes, click here.

4) Mercy Corps NW Business Plan Workshop: To view upcoming classes, click here.

5) Livelihood NW Business Development Workshop Series: To view upcoming classes, click here.
(Other classes can be considered for credit towards the requirements. If you have taken a class that comprises at least 18 hours, feel free to run it by us).

Other business workshops may qualify. If you would like to find out if they do, please contact the IDA staff. If you have not completed one of these classes, never fear. We will have another application period opening up in late fall 2020.

Can I take the classes right away?

Yes.  Once you are accepted into the IDA program you are expected to complete your educational requirements two months before you reach your savings goal. It is up to you and your schedule when to take the classes.

Can I just come up with the money and not wait 6 months?

No – six months is the minimum savings period and you are required to make monthly deposits.   Funds are deposited into a custodial bank account established for the sole purpose of the IDA.

Clients can save anywhere from 6 to 24 months, as long as the minimum savings period is met.

Can I get an IDA only once?

No, we offer a second IDA one year after completion of your first IDA.  The same qualifications remain as far as income, net worth, and Oregon residency.  A key qualification is that 65% of your current income must be coming from your business, and you must be able to show a profit and loss statement for one year.  We prioritize growing businesses with demonstrated sales and revenue.  No purchases for the second IDA can duplicate purchases from your first IDA.

For a 2nd IDA you will need to complete Foundations 2, and the same counseling and seminar requirements as part of the program.

Use of Funds

What can I use the money for? I need some help.

IDA funds are prioritized for hard asset purchases, meaning equipment and machinery.  The goal is to invest in long-term business assets that will increase your capacity or help you operate more effectively and efficiently.

We do allow up to 25% of funds to be used for sustainable marketing such as website design, signage or professional branding you can use over and over again in your business.

Vehicle purchases are approved only on an exception basis for businesses where it is their primary asset purchase (delivery business, taxi, food cart or truck, and farming vehicles for agricultural purposes).  Vehicles for personal use or other purposes are not eligible.

Some examples of eligible purchases are as follows:

  • Lawn mowers, leaf blowers and landscaping tools for lawn and yard maintenance businesses
  • Vacuums, carpet cleaners and floor scrubbers for custodial services operations
  • Kitchen equipment and appliances for food related ventures
  • Production equipment or tools for manufacturing operations

Can I use the money for training?

Business and professional education is an allowable purchase. IDA funds cannot be used to pay off existing debt or as working capital such as paying utilities, employees or any reoccurring bills.

What if I don’t spend it all? Does it go away?

We prioritize applicants who can utilize all of the funds, have a clear idea what purchases they will make and how it will benefit their business.  If you are unable to spend your IDA funds in the 4 month disbursal window you will forfeit your remaining match funds and will be asked to close your account.

What if I already bought my equipment—can I reimburse myself?

No – the IDA program does not pay off preexisting debt or reimburse you for any purchases made prior to your disbursal window.  You are not eligible to make IDA purchases until you have completed all program requirements and signed your disbursal paperwork.  After this meeting you will have 4 months to disburse all funds.


Do I have to complete a business plan?

Yes – all clients are required to complete a business plan as part of their IDA requirements.  Don’t worry, we will help you along the way, and have templates for you to utilize.

Do we have to give Mercy Corps access to our checking account?

Once you enroll in the program we have you set up a custodial bank account with a partner bank in Mercy Corps Northwest’s and your name. This is how we track your monthly savings. You will not have permission to access your account without our written permission. If you are exited from the program, MCNW will always sign off for you to access your funds. MCNW never touches your savings.

Do I have to pay taxes on my IDA grant funds?

No. Below you will find information sheet for IDA related Tax Issues:

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