A new program has debuted in Allegheny County to provide all residents with equitable access to sustainable financial products and service.
Bank On Allegheny County was launched by Neighborhood Allies, in partnership with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the City of Pittsburgh’s Office of Equity, with participation from Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.
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. Being unbanked can cost $40,000 over a lifetime due to use of costly alternative financial services for routine transactions.
About 30% of Allegheny County residents, about 360,000, are unbanked or underbanked, and Black 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.
“Bank On is one important way we can begin to address structural inequities within the financial system,” Henry Horn-Pyatt, economic opportunity manager for the Office of Equity, said in a prepared statement. “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 on Dec. 3, 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.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.
“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, said in a prepared statement. “We welcome those who support our goal to join the coalition.”