The Community Development Financial Institution, a branch of the U.S. Treasury Department, released a $1.5 million grant for a new program aimed to help low-income families find good paying jobs.

Called Ways to Work, the program provides affordable loans and financial education to working families with challenging credit histories. Clients use the loans to purchase reliable, pre-owned cars to help retain jobs or move ahead, reduce tardiness at work, access additional education or job training, as well as meet families’ needs – access to child care, doctors’ appointments and school activities.

“This year’s grant awardees provide vital financial services in low-income areas that are typically overlooked by traditional lenders, bettering the lives of Americans nationwide,” said CDFI Fund’s Director Donna J. Gambrell.

A recent study from the Brookings Institution found that even in metropolitan regions, only one-quarter of jobs in low- and middle-skill industries are accessible through a one-way 90 minute commute via public transit, as compared to one-third of jobs in high-skill industries, making the support that Ways to Work provides vital to low-income families trying to access better, higher-paying jobs.

An independent five-year evaluation of the program found that 94 percent of clients said that the loan helped them maintain or improve their employment circumstances. A significant percentage (82 percent) of participants were able to move off of public welfare programs, saving the federal government $18.2 million annually in reduced public assistance and higher tax revenue.

Ways to Work receives additional federal funding through the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Job Access Reverse Commute Program. Private sector funding has been provided nationally by Bank of America, Prudential, Kresge and the Wal-Mart Foundation. Through a network of more than 50 loan offices located nationwide, to date, Ways to Work has helped nearly 32,000 families improve their lives with the support of more than $63 million in loans.

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