Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer is awarded a 2018 DollarWise Grant to support his City's Parramore Kidz Zone Summer Youth Employment Program
DollarWise awards Mayor Buddy Dyer with a 2018 Innovation Grant to support Orlando’s summer youth employment program

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What we do

DollarWise Background

DollarWise is the Economic Mobility initiative of the United States Conference of Mayors. DollarWise believes in helping residents thrive economically. The Campaign fosters and supports innovative programs to promote educational opportunities, jobs and livable wages, financial capability, homeownership, affordable healthcare, and more. DollarWise addresses three primary components to address economic mobility:

1. Removing barriers that prevent economic advancement;

2. Creating economic opportunity through education and skills development; and

3. Building assets to create intergenerational wealth.

The DollarWise Campaign is made possible through support from the Bank of America Charitable Foundation, its founding sponsor.

DollarWise Innovation Grants

Each year, DollarWise offers USCM members the opportunity to apply for an award through its Innovation Grant Program. As of 2020, DollarWise has awarded grants to over 90 cities.

Member cities of The United States Conference of Mayors are eligible to apply for the DollarWise Innovation Grants. DollarWise Innovation Grants are designed to support city programs that remove barriers and create opportunities for underserved residents, so that they can build intergenerational wealth.

DollarWise grant awardees demonstrate a strong dedication to helping low & moderate-income residents improve their economic health and success.

2020 Innovation Grant Award Winners

On January 24th, the DollarWise Campaign awarded Innovation Grants – of $10,000 each – to expand economic mobility efforts in seven cities. The 2020 Innovation Grants were awarded during the 88th U.S. Conference of Mayors Winter Meeting in Washington, D.C.

Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh was awarded an Innovation Grant to expand his city’s Childcare Entrepreneur Fund pilot program. The city-wide effort develops and assists small businesses focused on childcare services.

Bridgeport Mayor Joseph Ganim was awarded a DollarWise Grant to expand his city’s reentry program, which provides wrap-around services to participants. The program is run through the Mayor’s Office of Reentry Affairs, and offers resources to help participants obtain proper identification and financial education training.

Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke received a DollarWise Innovation Grant to expand his city’s Tech Goes Home Program, which will leverage digital literacy and training opportunities for reentering residents in Chattanooga.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan will use a DollarWise Grant to grow Detroit’s Project Clean Slate, which provides legal aid for criminal record-sealing and expungement.

Lincoln Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird will use her DollarWise Innovation Grant to provide tailored workforce training to immigrants and refugees through her city’s CareerLadder initiative.

Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh will use his DollarWise Innovation Grant to support his city’s Fines and Fees Justice Initiative, which focuses on eliminating fines and fees within low-income communities in Syracuse.

West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon will use a DollarWise Innovation Grant to support his city’s Home Run Initiative, a “cradle to college and career program,” that helps children in West Sacramento achieve success throughout their lives.

The DollarWise Campaign is incredibly proud of each winning city and congratulates them for their efforts. DollarWise looks forward to working with each of these mayors to help expand their programs and promote economic mobility in their communities.

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

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 instil in youth conscientious habits and attitudes toward money and equip them with financial-management skills.

DollarWise Summer Youth Jobs Contest

While DollarWise will not be launching a national Summer Youth Jobs Contest with prizes in 2020 due to COVID-19, we are making available six financial education modules and a final exam for summer youth employment programs to use as part of their curriculum. The modules can be accessed at www.bedollarwise.org/syc. Youth who complete the final exam with 80% accuracy or higher will be provided a personalized DollarWise certificate of excellence.

The six financial education modules are powered by BetterMoneyHabits.com, and contain valuable financial education topics for young people including: budgeting, the anatomy of a paycheck, debit and credit cards, navigating the college financial aid process, understanding the true cost of buying a car, and renting a place to live. Please reach out to the DollarWise Campaign with any questions about the modules.

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. For 2019, 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. Please note that due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, the Summer Youth Jobs Contest will be postponed until 2021. 

DollarWise Month

Leading up to April 15th each year, DollarWise encourages cities and mayors to promote free tax assistance programming in their communities. DollarWise strongly urges cities to promote the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC) as an opportunity for residents in lower tax brackets to potentially receive more money in their tax refunds, and use that money to create a savings plan. Please be advised that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, DollarWise Month programming has been postponed for 2020. However,  DollarWise encourages mayors to promote IRS’ Free File Program as a way for residents to file their federal taxes online for free. Moreover, please be advised that IRS has recently announced that tax day has been moved to July 15, 2020. 

Free File

The IRS’ Free File Program allows taxpayers making under $69,000 a year to file their federal taxes (and state taxes where applicable) online for free. Taxpayers can participate in Free File by going to IRS.gov/FreeFile. View the video below for more information.

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: jkirby@usmayors.org for more information about the program.

Founding Sponsor of the  DollarWise Program