November 3, 2008

City closes in on $210,000 grant to help people get to work

City Grant Facilitator Debbi Embry is poised to land a three-year, $210,000 grant to help Racine residents get car loans to get to work.

The grant would bring the national "Way to Work" program to Racine. Way to Work trains people how to manage money and helps them secure a $4,000 car loan so they can get to a job.

Embry is requesting City Council permission Wednesday night to apply for a $50,000 grant from the SC Johnson Fund to pay for the program. Family Services of Racine would run the program. No matching dollars are required by the city.

The goal is have 150 Racine families receive car loans in three years, and to have 450 individuals go through financial literacy training.

Click below for Embry's letter detailing the program.

October 16, 2008

Mayor Gary Becker
And Common Council
Racine, WI 53403

Your Honor and Aldermen:

I respectfully request to appear before the appropriate committee to discuss our request to apply to SC Johnson Fund for matching funds of $50,000 for the Ways to Work Program. The Finance Department has been contacted for coordination, and the grant control number is 2008-037.

As you know, last spring, Racine County developed a strategic plan, “Higher Expectations: A Workforce Development Strategy for Racine” to address workforce development issues in our county. Racine County’s vision is to develop a vital, dynamic economy characterized by a workforce that is fully employed. One of the challenges to the vision of a fully employed workforce is the access to affordable transportation to and from the workplace for low-income individuals. The City of Racine, Family Service of Racine, and Ways to Work provide an opportunity to eliminate transportation as a barrier to employment by providing low-income individuals with financial education and small, low-interest loans to purchase or repair a used car. This helps parents get to their jobs; as well as access education and better care for their children.

Ways to Work is a national program, based in Milwaukee, with 40 offices in 20 states. Nearby, it currently has offices operating in Milwaukee, Waukesha, Green Bay and Chicago. The program delivers focused, intensive financial education to low-income, working parents with distressed credit histories. Those clients deemed well prepared for success are provided a car loan of up to $4,000 with a two-year term and ongoing case management supports.

A recent national evaluation of the program showed that program participants averaged a 41 percent increase in income, became more strongly attached to the workforce, repaired their credit standing, and accessed better day care for their children. Goals for the city of Racine, in partnership with Family Service of Racine is to provide 150 families with low-interest loans to purchase or repair a car over a three year period, and finally to provide financial literacy education to 450 families.

The Ways to Work program has the opportunity through a Wisconsin Department of Transportation grant to provide programming in Racine. The organization would provide an agency/organization with $280,000 over a three year period of time and over $500,000 is available for consumer loans to program participants. There is a match requirement of $210,000 over the three year period. .The amount requested from SC Johnson Fund is for $50,000 to help launch the program in Racine. The community partner for the program is Family Service of Racine.

There is no match requirement.


Deborah L. Embry, MBA
Grants Facilitator


  1. OK, this is getting ridiculous! The people working at city hall already appear to have transportation to get there! What is the focus of their grant writing department? There are already organizations out there that help the poor, is that really the mission of City Hall? What the h### is going on???!!!!

    I do NOT approve of my tax dollars going to pay for someone finding ways to give out money for car loans. That is NOT what City Hall should be spending their time on!!!!! Whoever is directing the city's grant writer to do these lame ideas needs to be FIRED or RECALLED!

  2. Whoa ...

    This grant costs the city no money and will help people get to jobs they can't otherwise get to. I can safely say there is nothing nefarious going on with this grant.

  3. "get car loans to get to work." m
    This is our green mayor backing cars????
    How about oh monny for the BUS system get the line going back to Parkside?
    or bike lanes?
    Car loans please
    Side bar

    Why so much now on what Embry is "doing"

  4. Obviously this grant is indeed costing taxpayers money, the grant writer and probably others in cityhall are involved in the time and energy in writing this grant. I'm sure there will be plenty of people lining up for their free cars. Doesn't Racine county already offer services to Racine's poor and underprivileged? How has this become cityhall's job?

  5. Colt that's an easy one to answer, it's because it's budget time and city council has to vote on keeping positions like the grant writer and city administrator.

  6. Like more then two or three have a backbone to stand up to Comrade Mayor Becker
    The Grant Writer nor City Adim have no fear of losing their jobs.

  7. You are probably right about that Colt.

  8. Colt -

    Please, please, please - for ONCE, please spell 'Admin' correctly. You are driving me nuts!

  9. No match for the 50,000.00 ,how about the match need for the 210,000.00 over three years?

  10. Cool! The City wants to be the sub-prime car loan baron!

  11. This is an incredibly stupid idea. If a person is just starting a new job, should he/she be able to handle a car loan right off the bat? How about money for maintenance of the car? Why doesn't the city just encourage taking public transportation instead? They could offer free bus passes or train passes, offering a car is just idiotic.

  12. $475 for a Schwinn World GS with a rack, and fenders. $600 for a bus pass for a year. They ride their bike to the nearest bus, put the bike on the bus rack, take it close to their destination, take the bike off the rack, and pedal the rest of the way to work. You can help 4 times as many people.

  13. Homework for anyone questioning this program: Give up your car for a week. Research the buses, dust off your bike and go one week in November without driving anywhere.

    Then, come back and report your results.

    Anonymous judgments of each other is what tears us apart. Empathy brings us together. Which do you choose?

  14. Mr. Block with respect

    1) Mayor Becker loves to talk about being a Green Mayor leading a Green City, so he is going to promote CARS?
    2) The BUS to UW park side ended with the Green Mayor cutting the route, so one would think that the first grant he would have he would have the grant writer look for is to get that back up and running
    3) Since when is it the STATE's job to take care of every need I know you looking for the Son of God to win today but we are still the land of opportunely vs France
    4) Why is the Post carrying water for the Mayor/Grant Writer. why have you waited this long to do anything on the grants she has written? Perhaps you should do a story on if Racine needs a grant writer I watch the council meetings
    I see the Health Dept Fire/police and others talk about the grants they are trying to get. So if they get there without the magic grant writer (And was she not fired from the YWCA for NOT bringing in funds...) why do we need one. Try and avoid double speak

  15. Mr. Block, this is about people who are not able to work because they don't have transporation. I can relate to that because there was a time in my life I could not afford a car and had to walk or take the bus to work everyday. Not having a car did not prevent me from working which is why I find this idea ridiculous.

    Along with the car they need money for gas, maintenance and how about AUTO INSURANCE? If a person is not able to purchase a car on their own I highly doubt they will be able to afford all this too, it doesn't stop at the price of the car.

    Money for a bus pass or train pass would be much more beneficial and less likely to have people abusing the system as I would suspect would happen with cars.

    If all that stands in the way of a person getting a job is transportation, then they should be thrilled with the possibility of a free bus or train pass.

  16. Mr. Block

    If so few are going to ride the BUS so the City needs to buy cars so they can get to work, then who is going to ride KRM, was not one of the points that we all wanted to ride KRM if folks will not ride a BUS they will not take a train.

  17. Well actually Colt, I ride the train but I would not want to ride the bus, there really isn't any comparison.

  18. . . . plus an alarm clock to wake up for the new job, clothes and shoes to wear (to the job), cell phone to call in sick or communicate with jobsite, designer eyewear and sunglasses for the drive to/from work, expensive state-run counseling on how to deal with having a job, extra food for workdays, expensive state-run counseling on how to use money - wait that was already built into this, allowance for daily happy hour and/or team building events - you wouldn't want entry level folks to miss out on what all those fat cats are getting, . . .

  19. Dustin, you idiot.

    Grant money IS TAX MONEY....grant money doesn't grow on trees!!!!!!!!!

  20. "Deborah L. Embry, MBA"

    I know for sure that THIS question will never be answered - what institution does Ms. Embry have an MBA from? Private college? Big Ten school? On-line degree mill overseas?

  21. How did she get hired after being let go from the Y for NOT being able to get funding for the YWCA?
    How many others were interviewed?
    (my guess is none)
    Still waiting to hear from the Post why all the focus now versus say the last year?

  22. Pete - Dustin - any answer to the "Deborah L. Embry, MBA" question - or will this be too embarrassing to the powers-that-be?