Washington, DC - The Pew Charitable Trusts' Safe Banking Opportunities Project is supporting a rapidly growing group of state and city governments that are launching campaigns to bring more Americans into the financial mainstream. The new programs, called “Bank On” initiatives, connect the “unbanked” —households without bank accounts—to appropriate accounts that help lower their financial transaction costs and put them on the path to building savings and assets. One of the largest such initiatives is being launched in California this year, in partnership with the Pew project.
“Pew is a key partner in our Bank On California initiative,” said Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who announced earlier this year that California will be the first state in the country to launch a campaign to reach the unbanked. “This initiative will help working Californians without bank accounts open starter accounts, access basic financial services, and enter the financial mainstream.”
The Safe Banking Opportunities Project is supporting the Bank On initiatives by supplying cities and states with strategic advice and detailed data about local unbanked markets and the financial institutions that can and currently do serve these markets. Pew will also invest in evaluations of the initiatives to ensure they are positively impacting their intended markets.
“Pew is honored to be working with leading government officials and organizations around the country to help more Americans move into the financial mainstream,” said Rebecca W. Rimel, president and CEO of The Pew Charitable Trusts. “We see programs like the Bank On initiatives as key to the future of financial services markets, allowing moderate- and lower-income working consumers to find safe, affordable, and empowering financial products.”
More than 10 million households in this country lack a bank account, paying hundreds—sometimes thousands—of dollars yearly to cash checks and pay bills at bank alternatives. In addition to paying often high fees, families are missing opportunities to build assets and wealth. With gas at over $4 a gallon and a sputtering national economy, the majority of these unbanked households can find much-needed savings by accessing appropriate bank accounts.
“I congratulate Pew on its decision to invest in and build upon this practical and unique work from which cities around the country will benefit,” said Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who has been working with Safe Banking Opportunities project director, Matt Fellowes, to develop the city's financial services programs. “Matt Fellowes has provided my office with invaluable analysis and data that we regularly use to create effective public policies designed to help Angelinos build a strong middle class.”
Fellowes added, “Bank On programs are a win-win for banks, consumers, elected officials and community groups because everyone's bottom line is served. Pew is looking forward to expanding the number of these partnerships around the country over the next year.”