by Sarah Bainton Kahn and Laura McComas NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education, and Families (YEF Institute) has selected eight new cities to participate in a second phase of the Bank On Cities Campaign, a technical assistance project aimed at helping municipal leaders connect low- and moderate-income families to mainstream financial services and products.
The cities selected for the project include Bryan, Texas; Denver; Gaithersburg, Md.; Indianapolis; Louisville, Ky.; Newark, N.J.; Rapid City, S.D.; and St. Petersburg, Fla.
Reaching the Unbanked
Millions of American families lack a bank account, paying hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars each year to cash checks and pay bills at check cashers, payday lenders and other bank alternatives. These families are missing out on opportunities to build wealth which could, in turn, lead to more financially stable neighborhoods.
“A bank account can be an important step on the path to financial security,” said Clifford M. Johnson, executive director of the YEF Institute. “Because a city’s economic health depends on the financial security of its residents, cities have a lot to gain by partnering with banks and credit unions to expand financial opportunities for families, especially in these uncertain economic times.”
The Bank On Cities Campaign Rolls On
As part of the 2009-2010 Bank On Cities Campaign, the YEF Institute will work closely with the eight selected cities to replicate or adapt an innovative approach pioneered by San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and Treasurer José Cisneros. This initiative, called Bank On San Francisco, forges connections among the city, financial institutions, and community organizations to develop and promote opportunities for accessible mainstream banking and financial education. The program has garnered the attention and interest of municipal leaders from cities across the nation, who are excited about launching similar efforts in their communities.
“As the mayor of Indianapolis, I hold financial fitness and asset building among our city’s top priorities,” commented Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard. “Launching a Bank On Indianapolis program is going to be key in building on our existing financial stability platform to reach this priority. Bank On Indianapolis will provide needed access to banking products, including savings and loans. In the current economic downturn, these services can’t be provided soon enough.”
In 2008, the first phase of the Bank On Cities Campaign assisted 10 cities in developing initiatives to expand access to free and low-cost bank accounts and financial education. Several of those cities have already started to successfully implement their “Bank On” or similar programs, including Seattle and Houston.
During the next phase of this project, the eight new selected cities will receive technical assistance from the YEF Institute to develop and implement their own version of a citywide Bank On Campaign.
Teams from each city will receive one-on-one assistance from institute staff and will participate in monthly conference calls, Web seminars and cross-city convenings designed to facilitate peer learning and provide access to national experts and other resources. Several cities that have already launched or will soon launch “Bank On” strategies have agreed to act as “faculty” and provide guidance and advice to the new cohort of project cities. These faculty cities include: Evansville, Ind.; Savannah, Ga.; San Antonio; and San Francisco.
“We are excited at the opportunity this creates for us to help Denver families toward long-term financial stability,” said Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper. “We look forward to taking full advantage of the expertise of NLC’s YEF Institute as we develop a Bank On Denver initiative that will give responsible, hard-working citizens a chance to achieve prosperity and financial security.”