November 4, 2019 Press Releases, RFA News

What Works Cities Invites Cities to Apply to New Intensive Learning Opportunity Focused on Addressing the Economic Impacts of Driver’s License Suspension for Residents

What Works Cities at Results for America partnering with the City of Durham and the Fines and Fees Justice Center to assist cities in ensuring economic opportunity for residents through license restoration and reform.

NEW YORK — What Works Cities, a Bloomberg Philanthropies initiative, is partnering with the City of Durham Innovation Team and the Fines and Fees Justice Center (FFJC), a national advocacy organization and co-lead of the “Free to Drive Campaign,” to provide a new intensive, virtual workshop for cities that want to end the negative impact of driver’s license suspensions on their residents’ economic opportunity and well-being. 

The 10-week workshop, Ensuring Opportunity Through Driver’s License Restoration & Reform: What Cities Can Do Now, will be offered in an online classroom with an immersive, expedited format. Participating cities will work with a cohort of peers and experts from Durham’s Innovation Team and the Fines and Fees Justice Center to understand how the issue of debt-based license suspension directly affects their own residents, develop a program similar to the local license restoration and reform efforts carried out in Durham, N.C., and explore pathways to statewide advocacy efforts to end unnecessary license suspensions.   

“We are excited to partner with FFJC and the City of Durham to scale this important opportunity to additional cities,” said Clarence Wardell, Director of City Solutions at What Works Cities. “Durham’s work is a great example of using data to understand the issues residents face and then building a program and partnerships to directly confront them.”

License suspension is directly related to loss in employment opportunities in communities across the country. Research from the Fines and Fees Justice Center shows that 86% of Americans drive to work, and job access is often connected to having a valid state ID. But, eleven million licenses are suspended in 44 states for infractions other than unsafe driving, such as unpaid traffic tickets, tolls, and other fees. 

The virtual curriculum will be modeled on the Durham Expungement and Restoration (DEAR) program, an effort developed and launched by the Durham Innovation Team and community partners after initial analysis of the city’s data discovered that one in five residents had a suspended or revoked driver’s license. To date, DEAR’s work with residents who would be eligible for license restoration has resulted in the dismissal of over 50,000 traffic charges unrelated to dangerous or reckless driving for over 30,000 people. 

Ryan Smith, Director of the Durham Innovation Team, said, “Debt-based license suspensions are not only unjust, they undermine people’s ability to support themselves, their families, and their community. Through DEAR and all of the partners who worked with us on this issue, we learned a tremendous amount about what the needs in our community were, how pervasive the problem was, and what we could do to help our residents and push for systemic change. Cities are in a unique position to take action on this issue, and we are eager to share what we have learned through our experiences so that more cities can make a meaningful difference in people’s lives.”

The 10-week intensive will begin January 9, 2020. Cities with a population of 30,000 or more and who meet the program’s basic eligibility requirements are encouraged to submit a statement of interest to receive additional application materials. Cities that have identified addressing equity issues and/or economic mobility as a top priority are especially encouraged to submit. All cities that are accepted will be notified from What Works Cities by December 17.

What Works Cities helps cities confront urgent challenges through data- and evidence-based decision-making. Working directly with municipal leaders and staff, What Works Cities provides cities with coaching and technical assistance on national standards of excellence in data-driven governance, a growing nationwide professional network, and a range of online and in-person learning opportunities. Since What Works Cities’ launch in 2015, it has helped more than 150 cities make progress in crucial areas, from health and public safety to homelessness and neighborhood blight. 

For more information, visit  

For inquiries, email [email protected].



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