State Treasurer Deborah B. Goldberg announced the recipients of its Lynn BabySteps Savings Plan Grants. This initiative funds Lynn organizations in the development and execution of outreach strategies, in order to increase enrollment in the BabySteps Savings Plan. BabySteps provides a free $50 deposit when a MEFA U.Fund 529 account is opened within one year of a Massachusetts child’s birth or adoption.
OEE will fund four organizations, committing a total of $50,000 to the project. Utilizing this opportunity, community-based groups will develop best practices for communicating the benefits of enrollment and encouraging greater participation. Organizations applied through a publicly advertised procurement process throughout the month of August.
The anticipated recipients are:
Highlands Coalition Inc.
New Lynn Coalition
United Nations Community Development Corporation
Grantees can receive up to $12,500. Final funding will be determined over the grant period. During this time, each organization will work in tandem to discuss solutions and explore pathways to improve BabySteps outreach.
“Although Lynn has one of the highest birthrates in Massachusetts, its participation in BabySteps has remained disproportionately low compared to other cities,” said State Treasurer Deborah B. Goldberg. “These grants will help local groups raise awareness in their community and reach families where they are.”
Last year, the State Legislature and Governor approved an amendment, passed by Senator Paul R. Feeney, to provide an additional $500,000 in funding for BabySteps to lessen barriers to savings programs for those who reside in low-to-moderate income cities and towns across Massachusetts. The Hildreth Stewart Charitable Foundation, led by Bob Hildreth, a champion of equity in higher education, donated $300,000 for the effort. Aside from this grant initiative, this funding will be used to facilitate monthly deposits through the recently announced SNAP into BabySteps expansion. The funding is held by the Economic Empowerment Trust Fund (EETF), a 501(c)3 established by the State Legislature and administered by the State Treasurer.
“The BabySteps program is an important tool for developing postsecondary mindsets in Massachusetts children. With this initiative, Lynn organizations will use their expertise to reach vulnerable residents and provide them with knowledge on the pathway to success,” said Bob Hildreth, Founder of Inversant and the Hildreth Institute.
“Through BabySteps, thousands of families are already saving for their children’s higher education expenses. MEFA is excited to work with these thought leaders and incorporate new ways of connecting with residents,” said Tom Graf, Executive Director of MEFA.
“I am grateful for this grant funding that will go towards increasing awareness and participation in the BabySteps Savings Plan here in Lynn,” said Representative Peter Capano (D-Lynn). “With these additional resources, local organizations will have the necessary tools to reach more families.”
“The BabySteps Savings Plan is a great opportunity for parents to invest in their children’s future education and economic well-being,” said Representative Dan Cahill (D-Lynn). “I am thrilled for this grant funding, which will go to support local organizations working hard to improve the lives of families in our community and across the state by increasing participation and awareness of this program.”
“Thanks to this grant, our community partners will offer their ingenuity, thoughtfulness, and care as they work to ensure more families enroll in BabySteps,” said State Senator Brendan P. Crighton (D-Lynn). “I am excited to see how their efforts will positively affect the program and the people it serves.”
“The City of Lynn is thrilled to have leaders from our organizations expand outreach strategies to increase participation in BabySteps,” said Jared C. Nicholson, Mayor of Lynn. “This is a tremendous effort to assist our families in proactively transforming the future of their children.”
“This grant will help local leaders design and implement effective ways to boost enrollment in the BabySteps Savings Plan. I am thankful for this grant funding and am confident that it will benefit not only the families in Lynn but across Massachusetts,” said Representative Donald Wong (R-Lynn).
Two community planners, Alexandra Piñeros Shields and Erika Moldow, will join OEE, MEFA, and the Hildreth Stewart Charitable Foundation to organize and implement grantees’ strategies. Work began in October 2023 and will conclude in March 2024.
Throughout 2022, researchers at the Institute for Economic and Racial Equity (IERE) within the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University conducted an evaluation of BabySteps. Their report suggests program-specific improvements, like offering increased financial incentives for low-income families and working with statewide partners to expand enrollment. OEE, MEFA, the Hildreth Stewart Charitable Foundation, and others have used this report as a roadmap for continued success.
Through the free $50 seed deposits given when a MEFA U.Fund 529 account is first opened, BabySteps has funded over 29,600 accounts for a total of over $1.5 million. Money in these accounts can be used for education, vocational training, and apprenticeship costs. To learn more, visit mass.gov/babysteps.
About the Office of Economic Empowerment
Treasurer Goldberg created the Office of Economic Empowerment, led by a deputy treasurer, with the deliberate goal of implementing a range of economic empowerment initiatives that include closing the race and gender wage gap, addressing racial equity, increasing access to financial education, and creating pathways to economically stable futures for all residents across the state.
About the Hildreth Stewart Charitable Foundation
The Hildreth Stewart Charitable Foundation is dedicated to empowering low-to-moderate-income families by providing them with educational opportunities, social support systems, and financial resources necessary for their well-being. We believe in upholding the dignity of all individuals, demonstrating empathy toward those in need, and actively challenging ignorance, incivility, and systemic inequities.
Driven by a spirit of curiosity and informed by thorough research, our foundation remains open to a broad selection of causes and projects. We believe in taking calculated risks and supporting ventures that align with our mission, displaying our unwavering commitment to dismantling structural barriers to success.
The projects our donor, Robert Hildreth, initiated exemplify our mission, reflecting our willingness to tackle challenging issues and our deep passion for creating a more equitable society.
MEFA is a state authority, not reliant on state or federal appropriations, established under Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 15C. MEFA's mission, since its founding in 1982, has been to help Massachusetts students and families access and afford higher education and reach financial goals through education programs, tax-advantaged savings plans, low-cost loans, and expert guidance. All of MEFA's work aligns with the ever-present goal to support the independence, growth, and success of Massachusetts students and families. Visit mefa.org to learn more or follow MEFA on X @mefatweets, on Facebook at mefaMA, and on Instagram at @mefa_ma.