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CalMoneySmart Grant Program

The CalMoneySmart program provides annual grants of up to $200,000 to nonprofit organizations to provide financial education and financial empowerment programs and services for unbanked and underbanked Californians.

CalMoneySmart began when Governor Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 455 (Bradford) in October 2019, which created the Financial Empowerment Fund to fund a grant program for nonprofit organizations. The CalMoneySmart program was launched with an initial $4 million fund, and the program was authorized to award up to $1 million each year to nonprofits for financial empowerment programs focusing on unbanked and underbanked consumers in California. In 2021-22, Assembly Bill 137 expanded the Financial Empowerment Fund by an additional $10 million, increasing the annual amount available for grants to $2 million with a maximum grant award to $200,000 per fiscal year until the program sunsets on January 1, 2030.

Unbanked households, as defined by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), do not have a checking or savings account. Underbanked households, according to the FDIC, had a checking or savings account but also used an alternative financial services (AFS) provider in the 12 months preceding the survey. These services include money orders, check cashing, international remittances, payday loans, refund anticipation loans, rent- to-own services, pawn shop loans, or auto title loans.

In 2021 National Survey of Unbanked and Underbanked Households, the FDIC found that 4.5 percent of American households are unbanked and that an additional 14.1 percent of households were underbanked in 2021. The California unbanked rate is slightly higher than the national rate, at 5 percent.

Unbanked households have disproportionately lower incomes and levels of education than banked households. Black and Hispanic households, single-mother working-age households with a disability, and immigrants are also disproportionately represented among the unbanked. Due to their credit status, unbanked and underbanked households often pay high fees for everyday financial services and find it difficult to build savings, establish credit, and build wealth.

Financial education programs, like those funded by CalMoneySmart, are cost-effective means to improve both financial knowledge and financial behaviors that promote stability, protect consumers, and generate wealth (Kaiser, FINRA Foundation, 2022). Individualized counseling reinforces and empowers consumers to participate in financial services and build assets and financial security. Access to free financial products provide pathways to mainstream financial services and help develop habits to increase financial well-being.

Community-based nonprofit organizations that have received CalMoneySmart funding over the past three years have implemented diverse and innovative approaches to reaching underserved communities by supporting and educating Californians about creating a better future for themselves and their families. The CalMoneySmart Annual Report 2021-22 showcases the accomplishments of 22 CalMoneySmart grantees.

Important Grant Information

Grant Funding Uses

CalMoneySmart offers qualifying nonprofit organizations grants of up to $200,000. The grants may be used to:

  • 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.

Every project funded with a CalMoneySmart grant must:

  1. Promote and enhance the economic security of consumers.
  2. Adhere to the Five Principles of Effective Financial Education described in the June 2017 report issued by the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau titled Effective financial education: Five principles and how to use them.

These five principles are:

  1. Know the individuals and families to be served
  2. Provide actionable, relevant and timely information
  3. Improve key financial skills
  4. Build on motivation and,
  5. Make it easy to make good decisions and follow through.

Eligibility Criteria

To be eligible for a grant, an Applicant must meet the following criteria:

  • The Applicant is exempt from federal income taxes under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code and is organized and operated exclusively for one or more of the purposes described in Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code; and
  • No part of the net earnings of the Applicant shall inure to the benefit of a private shareholder or individual.

Other Grant Requirements

Funded projects must include:

  • One or more specific outcome targets.
  • An evaluation component designed to measure and document the extent to which the project achieves its intended outcomes and increases consumers’ financial well-being.

No more than 15 percent of the grant can be used to cover administrative costs, which may include, but are not limited to, costs of workforce overhead, human resources, accounting, finance, business and facility operations, and information technology.

Applicants selected for a grant must submit to the DFPI a completed, signed CalMoneySmart Agreement and additional information to process payment.

Grantees will be required to submit an annual report using a template provided by the DFPI.

How to Apply

Applications for the 2023-24 CalMoneySmart program are no longer being accepted. Please subscribe to the CalMoneySmart newsletter for updates on next year’s program.

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Last updated: Dec 8, 2023 @ 2:00 pm