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CUs, FIs In Idaho Team Up For Unbanked
BOISE, Idaho (11/1/13)--Two credit unions are among the Idaho financial institutions that are helping the state's unbanked population rejoin the financial services mainstream.
 
The Bank On program, which launched in August in partnership with the United Way of the Treasure Valley and Idaho Department of Finance, will offer a checking account to people who take five financial literacy classes at any of the 10 financial institutions participating in the program (Idaho Business Review Oct. 21) .
 
Icon CU, Boise, and Simplot Employees CU, Caldwell, are participating in the Bank On program.
 
"We have a strong relationship with the United Way," Connie Miller, Icon CU president/CEO, told News Now. "They approached us and asked us if we wanted to participate. Because education is such a key component of what we do, we were all over it."
 
Members and customers with unpaid fees or negative balances are often referred to ChexSystems, a consumer-reporting agency similar to a credit reporting agencies. ChexSystems notifies financial institutions when an account-holder has a history of account mishandling.
 
Once a person is flagged by ChexSystems, opening a checking account can be a challenge, Miller said.
 
Icon CU already has programs in place to offer second-chance opportunities for members who had problems with loans and checking accounts in the past, Miller said.
 
"That philosophy is part of who we are," she added.
 
The Bank On program won't remove people's names from ChexSystems, but it will give them access to a checking account at any of the credit unions or banks participating in the program.
 
Bank On offers five classes designed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. that can be taken in-person or online. Class topics include using a checking account responsibly, preparing a personal budget and saving money for long-term goals. The ten financial institutions supplied funding for the program as well as staff who will volunteer to teach classes.
 
More than 60 other Bank On projects are working in the U.S.
 
Icon CU is advertising the program in its branches and financial classes, and at events for Big Brothers/Big Sisters, which it sponsors. One of the biggest challenges will be promoting the program, but Icon CU is in it for the long haul, Miller said.
 
"When we look at the various social challenges that we have in our culture, almost all of them have this financial component," Miller said. "If we can tackle the financial side, how many other issues will it help alleviate in our society?"
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