DollarWise: Mayors for Economic Mobility2019-01-19T14:39:08+00:00

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer is awarded a 2018 DollarWise Grant to support his City’s Parramore Kidz Zone Summer Youth Employment Program                            

DollarWise Background

DollarWise is committed to creating substantive economic mobility opportunities for residents in cities and communities throughout the United States. By acquiring financial capabilities and having access to tangible resources, low and moderate-income residents can remove barriers to their financial success and begin to build assets and opportunities that ultimately lead them to positive financial health.

The DollarWise Campaign believes in addressing economic mobility through a three-pronged approach: first by removing barriers to economic mobility that keep people in poverty, second, by promoting opportunities for residents to obtain economic mobility, and third by helping people build economic assets and wealth. We believe in a comprehensive approach to helping residents thrive economically, fostering and supporting innovative programs nationwide that promote and expand efforts in the following areas:

  • Affordable Housing and Homeownership

  • Affordable Healthcare

  • Educational Opportunities

  • Financial Capability and Financial Education

  • Jobs and Livable Wages

  • Justice Reform

  • Youth Development and Summer Youth Employment

We know that when individuals and families have the opportunity to prosper in each of these areas, their lives change for the better.

Policy Efforts Surrounding Economic Mobility

DollarWise is dedicated to supporting and learning about regional/local policy measures that alleviate the financial stress of their residents or remove barriers to economic mobility (e.g. eliminating bail bonds or probation fees, eliminating high fees for vehicle impoundment, discontinuing sentencing practices that may include jail time for residents who can’t pay traffic tickets, suspension of driver’s licenses without notification for inability to pay fines due to illness or unemployment etc.)  DollarWise believes that the first step to promoting economic mobility in communities means first removing the barriers that stunt economic growth for individuals and families. Only once these barriers are removed, can the process of economic mobility begin.

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What we do

  Mayors are presented 2018 DollarWise Awards at 86th USCM Winter Meeting

DollarWise Innovation Grants

Each year, DollarWise offers USCM members the opportunity to apply for an award through its Innovation Grant Program. As of 2019, DollarWise has awarded grants to 85 cities.

Member cities of The United States Conference of Mayors are eligible to apply for the DollarWise Innovation Grants. The DollarWise Innovation Grants Program is designed to foster innovative efforts that help working people and families, particularly within underserved and underrepresented communities, attain access to economic mobility.

For FY 2019, FIVE individual DollarWise grants of $10,000 each will be awarded to cities with innovative programs or policies that foster economic mobility and income stability efforts for their residents.

Award winners will be announced during the U.S. Conference of Mayors Winer Meeting in Washington D.C. – January 23-25 2019.

DollarWise grant awardees demonstrate a strong dedication to helping low & moderate-income residents improve their economic health and success. Strong applications will be specific about program implementation, key partnerships & funders, impact measurement, and replication in additional cities. Grants may also be awarded to cities for implementation of programs or for the purpose of creating professional data analysis/statistically significant research surrounding economic mobility efforts and policy in their communities.

2018 Innovation Grant Award winners included:

  • Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh for financial education in ESL

  • Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner for financial education in Prisoner Re-entry

  • Akron Mayor Daniel Horrigan for the “Open Innovation Grant Category”DollarWise Innovation Grants

DollarWise Summer Youth Campaign Grants

Historically, DollarWise has offered $10,000 Summer Youth Campaign (SYC) Grants to cities to support summer youth employment programs. In 2019, cities will be able to apply for summer youth employment assistance funding through the DollarWise Innovation Grant application above.

2018 Summer Youth Campaign Grant Award winners included:

  • Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer for financial education in a youth program during the summer months

  • Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola for financial education in a year-round youth program

Click here for an overview of each of the 2018 Innovation and Summer Youth Campaign Grant programs. 

East Orange Mayor Ted Green (R) and Mayor’s Office of Employment and Training Manager LaDonna Johns (L) with 2018 Summer Youth Contest Winner

DollarWise Summer Youth Contest

Each year, the DollarWise Campaign, in partnership with The U.S. Conference of Mayors Workforce Development Council, launches the DollarWise Summer Youth Contest to help youth in summer jobs have access to financial education. Since 2012, over 10,000 youth have participated in this initiative.

Each summer, youth are invited to complete a set of financial education modules that cover important topics. In 2018, these topics included: setting a budget, the anatomy of a paycheck, understanding credit and debit cards, completing a FAFSA, the true cost of purchasing a car, and renting a place to live.

Register for the 2019 Summer Youth Contest

To register your city for the 2019 Summer Youth Contest, go to the link here. The DollarWise Campaign will follow up with you with instructions on how youth in your program can participate.

For 2019, Contest raffles will be held each Friday (5pm ET), from  July 5th, until August 2nd.

Three winners will be randomly selected to win iPads, Kindles, and iPods each week, and are invited to take a photo with the mayors of their respective cities.

After completing all five modules, youth will be encouraged to complete a cumulative fifteen-question final exam that further test their knowledge on the contest material. All youth who score an 80% or higher on the exam receive a digital DollarWise Summer Youth Contest certificate of completion.

We hope that your program will collaborate with us again this year in an effort to promote both the substance and positive outcomes of summer youth programs across the nation

Summer Youth Campaign

DollarWise encourages each city to incorporate a financial education component into its summer youth employment program. Our goal is to make financial education a key component of every summer youth job.

A summer youth job can be a watershed moment in a youth’s life when he/she learns the responsibility of work and the excitement of earning money. Being hired for a job and receiving a paycheck is a teachable moment that can shape attitudes and habits that last a lifetime. The idea is to use this window of opportunity to instill in youth conscientious habits and attitudes toward money and equip them with financial-management skills.

DollarWise Month

Leading up to April 15th 2019, DollarWise is encouraging cities and mayors to participate by promoting the IRS’ Free File program.

Free File allows taxpayers making under $66,000 a year to file their federal taxes (and state taxes where applicable) online for free. Taxpayers can participate in Free File by going to

This year, DollarWise is asking mayors to promote the Free File program by sharing the video below on their social media pages and/or their public access networks.

Each April, DollarWise encourages mayors and cities across the nation to hold events and participate in initiatives that help them complete their taxes cheaply and easily. DollarWise also encourages cities to provide financial education to residents as they file their taxes. These events can focus on: free tax assistance, financial advice for adults, encouraging youth to save for their future, and more.

During April of 2019, DollarWise will work with residents who qualify to seek free tax help in their communities until April 15th. Free File and Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites are just two resources that residents can use to seek free tax assistance – although cities are encouraged to utilize all resources that can assist their communities.

Mayors are also encouraged to promote the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) as an opportunity for residents in lower tax brackets to receive more money in their tax returns, and use their returns to create a savings plan.

How do I set up an economic mobility campaign in my city?

Setting up a local economic mobility campaign may sound overwhelming, but it is easier than you might think. Sure, it will take some work and a little bit of effort, but by following a few simple steps you’ll be up and running in no time.

Step 1 Analyze your city’s economic mobility needs

Different cities scope out their economic mobility needs in different ways. Some bring together groups of city and community leaders and residents to discuss their challenges and how to begin addressing them. Others take a statistical approach based on sources such as census and IRS data. Yet others use some combination of the two. Ultimately, chances are you’ll be able to identify many different groups to help. The best approach is often to focus your efforts on one segment of your community and then expand from there as your capacity grows.

Step 2 Find out who’s already addressing those needs

Most likely, one or more organizations are working on economic mobility in your city. There’s no need to “reinvent the wheel,” as the saying goes. Learn who those groups are, how and where they do their work, and the segments of your community they work with. Groups that are probably addressing economic mobility may include faith-based groups, financial institutions, public and private schools, nonprofits, the local housing authority and/or housing-assistance programs, local employers, and other community-based groups.

Step 3 Develop partnerships with those groups

Establish partnerships with those organizations that are working to improve economic mobility. Help them to reinforce and enhance their work and to build a coordinated, citywide effort. You can work with them on organizing classes, workshops, and community programs. Your work with them will create a foundation for even greater expansion of your local economic mobility efforts in the future.

Step 4 Take advantage of all DollarWise has to offer

  • Apply for a DollarWise Innovation Grant.
  • Participate in the DollarWise Summer Youth Campaign and DollarWise Month.
  • Work with your local partners to organize economic mobility opportunities and events.
  • Work with our national partners and learn from other DollarWise cities.
  • Make a commitment to an ongoing, year-round economic mobility effort.
  • Evaluate your local campaign. Identify areas in which you can improve.

Stay Connected With DollarWise

Contact DollarWise Program Manager James Kirby at: for more information about the program.

Founding Sponsor of the  DollarWise Program