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Fla. United Way encourages poor to open accounts
ORLANDO, Fla. (7/12/12)--Several United Way agencies in South Florida have teamed up with credit unions and banks for an asset-building campaign to help unbanked and under-banked individuals increase their financial stability.

United Ways of Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach Counties Wednesday announced the launch of Bank On South Florida, which focuses on low-income households without checking or savings accounts (unbanked) or who have an account but continue to rely on alternative financial services (underbanked). Bank On South Florida is part of a national Bank On campaign operating in more than 100 communities.

The project's inaugural financial institution partners include two credit unions--City County CU, Fort Lauderdale, and Power Financial CU, Pembroke Pines--as well as 10 banks.

"An average unbanked individual will spend $1,000-$2,000 annually in fees simply to cash paychecks from check-cashing stores," said Bill Mills, director of Bank On Florida. "This is a substantial amount of money that Bank On South Florida will be helping put back into the hands of our low-income working families, and enable them to keep and grow their hard-earned dollars with mainstream banking institutions."

The Federal Reserve Bank has estimated that 8.4% of unbanked households and 16.8% of underbanked households exist in the tri-county metro area. The households rely on predatory lenders such as check-cashing stores, payday lenders and rent-to-own stores. That reliance prevents them from growing assets, said a press release from the agencies.

Participating nonprofit community organizations will provide financial education and coaching, and work with candidates to remove any barriers or obstacles impeding a banking relationship. They will then provide candidates with a qualified referral to a participating credit union or bank, which will then work with the individuals to provide affordable banking products and to grow their assets.

Inaugural nonprofit partners include South Florida Urban Ministries, Hispanic Unity of Broward County, Urban League of Broward County, Housing Partnership Inc., 211 Network and Consolidated Credit Counseling Services Inc.


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