Treasury Urges Low-Cost Banking
May. 08, 2000
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Clinton administration will propose this week a $30 million plan to help low-income people open low-cost, basic bank accounts, Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers said today.
An estimated 10 percent of U.S. households do not have bank accounts. They are predominantly poor and minority and often elderly or disabled, according to government officials. Among the reasons: rising bank and ATM fees, the closing of bank branches in poor city neighborhoods and rural towns, and mistrust of banks in general.
The administration has expressed concern about this ``unbanked'' population for some time, saying they often fall prey to storefront check-cashing services that charge excessive fees.
The so-called ``First Accounts'' plan to be proposed to Congress would provide subsidies to banks, thrifts and credit unions to offer low-cost, ``no frills'' accounts for lower-income people, Summers said in a speech to the Consumer Bankers Association, an industry group.
Banks also would get subsidies for expanding ATM machines in poorer neighborhoods, a service which banks have complained is too expensive, and Internet banking for lower-income people.
The proposal also includes a public education campaign for financial literacy in poorer communities.
``Working together, we should ensure that all low-income Americans have access to the types of financial products that the rest of us take for granted,'' Summers said. ``All individuals should be able to cash their checks without paying high fees.''
He noted that some people who receive federal government benefits, which mostly have been delivered electronically since January 1999, are reluctant to get them that way because they live in areas that lack ATM machines.
The Treasury Department has started a pilot program to put automated teller machines in post offices in poorer neighborhoods.