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New Bank on Allegheny program aims to provide equitable access to sustainable financial products

 

December 21, 2020



Neighborhood Allies, in partnership with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), and the City of Pittsburgh’s Office of Equity, and with participation from Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund (CFE Fund) and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), launched Bank On Allegheny County with an online event where 89 people participated, representing local banks, credit unions, and community organizations.

The purpose of the national Bank On movement is to improve the financial stability of unbanked and underbanked individuals and families by connecting people to safe and affordable accounts, raise public awareness, target outreach to the unbanked, and expand access to financial services.

“Economic Inclusion is integral to the FDIC’s mission of maintaining stability and public confidence in the nation’s financial system,” said Lee Ann Antol, community affairs specialist at FDIC.

The goal of Bank On Allegheny County is to increase equitable access of all people to sustainable financial products and services. In Allegheny County, nearly 30 percent of residents are unbanked or underbanked –approximately 360,000 adults. Black Allegheny County residents are nearly seven times more likely to be unbanked than white residents. Those with a disability are three times more likely to be unbanked than those without a disability. Being unbanked can cost $40,000 over a lifetime due to use of costly alternative financial services for routine transactions.

“Bank On is one important way we can begin to address structural inequities within the financial system,” said Henry Horn-Pyatt, economic opportunity manager for the Office of Equity. “We can help guide folks to safe, dependable banking products while inviting area banks to show their commitment to communities by making sure their products are accessible.”

At the launch event, CFE Fund announced a $25,000 grant to Neighborhood Allies to build capacity and create a local coalition. Bank On coalitions are locally-led partnerships between local public officials; city, state, and federal government agencies; financial institutions; and community organizations that work together toward greater banking access.

“Banking access is a critical part of financial stability,” said David Rothstein, principal at the CFE Fund. “That’s why we work with local organizations and government in 90 coalitions around the country to expand access to Bank On certified accounts that meet the needs of people outside the financial system. We are thrilled to support the launch of Bank On in Allegheny County with a $25,000 grant as the coalition works to guide unbanked community members to safe, affordable and functional accounts.”

The new coalition will work with CFE Fund as a part of their Bank On national initiative to promote the Bank On National Account Standards, updated for 2021-2022. Of the close to 60 financial institutions whose accounts have been certified to meet the standards, six serve Allegheny County: Bank of America, Dollar Bank, First Commonwealth Bank, JPMorgan Chase, KeyBank, and S&T Bank.

These Standards mandate no overdraft, insufficient funds or dormancy fees; have monthly fees less than $5 with low opening deposits; and provide ease of transactions such as bill pay and transfers. The CFE Fund promotes certified accounts that can be opened online for households to receive stimulus and other emergency payments more quickly and safely. Last month, the American Bankers Association urged their members to join the Bank On movement.

“Bank On Allegheny County is committed to increasing access to financial products and services for those most at risk of being left out of the system,” said Sarah Dieleman Perry, director of economic opportunity at Neighborhood Allies. “We welcome those who support our goal to join the coalition.”

 

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