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Frequently Asked Questions

Below are answers to many of the most frequently asked questions about the CalMoneySmart grant program. If you have further questions, please contact us at CalMoneySmart@dfpi.ca.gov.

Who can apply for a CalMoneySmart grant?

Any nonprofit organization may apply for a CalMoneySmart grant if they are:

  1. Exempt from federal income taxes under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code and organized and operated exclusively for one or more of the purposes described in Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.
  2. Have no part of their net earnings inure to the benefit of a private shareholder or individual.

Does my proposed program need to satisfy all three of the stated authorized uses for the CalMoneySmart grant?

No. Programs are only required to cover one of the authorized uses. You may choose to do more.

Due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, can my proposed financial education program being web-based?

Yes, as long as the program is within the authorized categories:

  • Design, develop, or offer free classroom- or web-based financial education and empowerment content intended to help unbanked and underbanked consumers achieve, identify, and access lower-cost financial products and services, establish or improve their credit, increase their savings, or lower their debt.
  • Provide individualized, free financial coaching to unbanked and underbanked consumers.
  • Design, develop, or offer a free financial product or service intended to help unbanked and underbanked consumers identify and access responsible financial products and financial services, establish or improve their credit, increase their savings, or lower their debt.

Is there a minimum or maximum grant amount I can apply for?

There are no minimum grant amounts. The maximum grant that can be requested is $200,000, which should include administrative costs no more than 15% to operate your proposed project.

Can the CalMoneySmart grant be used for consumer incentives? What other restrictions are there on uses of grant funding?

No. While opening an account for an unbanked individual is a great idea, grant money cannot be used as seed money to start an account, to match an initial deposit, or as a reward for completing a training course. It cannot be used in the form of cash, a gift card, or a direct payment of any kind to an individual or business in the target community.

Furthermore, no more than 15% can be used for administrative costs. (See “What are administrative costs?” question below)

What are considered administrative costs?

Administrative costs may include, but are not limited to, costs of workforce overhead, human resources, accounting, finance, business and facility operations, and information technology.

Administrative costs budgeted by each grantee should be in proportion to the organization’s other program costs.

Staff hired specifically to implement the programs proposed for grant funding would be direct costs of the proposal and should be included in the 85% proposed budget, not the 15% administrative costs budget. This staff cost is specific to the program for which grant money is sought and needed to begin. This direct cost is similar to the cost of printing materials for in-classroom courses or developing an on-line course or application.

Can grant funding be used to purchase “swag” to promote the financial education programs?

We need an exact description, cost per item and image if possible of the proposed swag. The applicant should include this as a line item in its proposal budget. The DFPI Grant Committee will decide whether the budgeted swag is acceptable or not, based on the following guidelines: if the swag actually equates to marketing materials and is inexpensive (pencil, wristband), the Department would likely approve the swag line item. If the swag is more expensive and an attempt to “buy” participation, that would be unacceptable.

Can CalMoneySmart grant be used for training purposes, for example a class on how to access loan capital through a bank?

Yes, as long as it is focused towards the underbanked community and is consistent with the other authorized uses and goals of the grant program.

Can applicants apply as a “Community Based Organizations” (CBO) or nonprofit partnership?

The category or type of the applicant is not relevant. What is relevant and mandatory is that the applicant apply as a single organization and satisfy the two eligibility criteria of the law:

  1. The organization is exempt from federal income taxes under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.
  2. No part of the net earnings of the organization shall inure to the benefit of a private shareholder or individual.

Can the CalMoneySmart grant be used to help local small businesses?

Yes, as long as the business can be categorized as unbanked or underbanked.

Can grants be “sub-granted” to other nonprofits?

No. The legislature has tasked the DFPI with deciding who should be awarded a grant, not grantees.

What documentation can I use to prove that no part of the applying organization's net earnings benefit a private shareholder or individual?

A legally compliant non-profit should have the basic corporate governance and tax-exempt documentation listed below, proving it is a non-profit entity organized under California law and tax-exempt under Internal Revenue Code section 501(c)(3). The applicant can also include its Mission Statement and letter from its CEO on the applicant’s letterhead to further support statutory requirements.

Fundamental corporate governance documentation would include Articles of Incorporation and By Laws, which should include standard verbiage saying the applicant was formed under the (California) Non-Profit Public Benefit Corporation Law for public and charitable purposes and is not organized for the private gain of any person. The Articles or By Laws may also state that should the applicant dissolve, all unused capital funds would be required to be returned to the funding source.

Additional proof will include documents specifically required under the Application, including the applicant’s letter from the IRS confirming/granting the applicant status as tax-exempt under 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code; the applicant’s most recent tax return (Form 990, “Return of Organization Exempt From Income Tax”); and, although not specifically referenced in the Application, applicants should also have and submit a letter from the California Franchise Tax Board, stating that the applicant is exempt from taxation and in good standing.

Certificates of Good Standing: Where can I request these documents and how recent must the certificates be?

Certificates of Good Standing must be current and in compliance with all applicable laws. They should be current within 90 days of the date of submission of the Application. Here is a link to the form you may use to request this documentation: https://bpd.cdn.sos.ca.gov/pdf/be-records-requests.pdf

Am I required to provide two Certificates of Good Standing?

The two requested documents may be the same, if your organization originates/only operates in California. There may be national nonprofits who have local chapters who are applying for a grant. In this case, they will need to submit two Certificates of Good Standing – one for California and the other from wherever their national organization is operating from.

Do I need to include sub-contractors in the grant proposal?

Yes, and please include all relevant details for any proposed subcontractors (who, what, why, cost, etc)

Should I submit the CalMoneySmart application, supporting documents, grant proposal, representations, agreements and covenants all together at the same time?

Yes. Your application should include all sections included in the application, in addition to the signatory page. Also include any required application documents and any other relevant information.

When will CalMoneySmart grants be awarded?

Grant funds will be distributed soon after the confirmation of the awards. The Commissioner’s decisions regarding grant amounts and approved administrative costs are final and not subject to appeal.

How often are CalMoneySmart grants awarded?

CalMoneySmart will offer a new round of grants each fiscal year, starting July 1. The program is funded through 2030.

How many CalMoneySmart grants will be awarded? What is expected to be the average grant size?

Currently, we are expecting to award as many grants as possible, until we reach our $2 million maximum. The maximum amount that can be awarded is $200,000.

Can I submit a CalMoneySmart application each year to continue my proposed program?

Yes. Organizations may submit a new application in subsequent years whether or not they received a grant in the previous year.

Is there a plan for equal geographic distributions for the CalMoneySmart grants? (i.e. grants for Northern CA, for Southern CA)?

The DFPI plans to distribute grants to organizations throughout state, with an emphasis on an equitable distribution to un/underbanked populations in the state. 

Does each grantee have to report how grant monies are used?

Grantees are required to submit a report documenting:

  1. The specific uses for which grant funds were allocated,
  2. The number of individuals aided with the funds,
  3. Quantitative results detailing the impact of grant funding, and
  4. Any other information requested by the Commissioner.

The reports must be submitted in a form and by a date to be specified by the Commissioner. Additionally, grantees must acknowledge and agree that the DFPI and the California State Auditor may conduct or require periodic audits to ensure grantees are using funds consistent with the requirements and terms of the program and their grant proposal.

Where do I submit my CalMoneySmart application?

The 2022-23 CalMoneySmart program is no longer accepting applications. Please subscribe to our e-newsletter for updates on the 2023-24 CalMoneySmart program on https://dfpi.ca.gov/calmoneysmart/.

If I have more questions, who can I contact?

Please contact CalMoneySmart@dfpi.ca.gov with additional questions or comments.

Approved by Klee 4/20

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Last updated: Jan 17, 2023 @ 3:43 pm