PORTLAND, Maine (12/30/10--Thanking the Maine Credit Union League and the state's credit unions for their "strong support and participation," Maine Bureau of Financial Institutions Superintendent Lloyd P. LaFountain III announced a new initiative to help Maine people who do not have a relationship with a financial institution. The collaborative effort between the bureau and a "Bank on ME" working group --which included three credit union representatives and was established by the state Legislature--aims to help unbanked people save and protect their money through low or no-cost accounts at credit unions and other financial institutions. LaFountain, in the announcement, explained that the individuals without an account at a credit union or bank "may be unaware of the security and benefits that come from such accounts. Many people pay expensive charges for check cashing and other services from storefront operations. The Bureau of Financial Institutions, the governor and the Maine Legislature worked together to develop a plan of action to help the 'unbanked.'" John Murphy, president of the credit union league and a member of the working group, said credit unions' participation in the project "goes hand in hand with what credit unions across Maine are already doing to help Maine consumers." Murphy noted the initiative's brochure and other resources will "raise awareness among that segment of the population who are unfamiliar with the safety and benefits of accounts at credit unions and other financial institutions. Maine credit unions are committed to helping to reach out to consumers and provide low-cost financial services to individuals who have had little or no contact with financial institutions." LaFountain highlighted three services that have been finalized to assist the unbanked:
* Save and Protect Your Money Brochure, which explains what's needed to open an account, defines "overdraft" and other terms, and provides a check-list of questions to ask in opening an account to ensure that it will provide needed protections and services. Copies will be available at credit unions and other financial institutions as well as a number of community-based non-profits. Plans are underway to make the brochure available in other languages. * Online Consumer Library: The Bureau of Financial Institutions' online consumer library has resources for unbanked individuals and others seeking information about topics such as foreclosure, credit cards, borrowing, credit reports and financial scams. The library can be accessed in the "Consumer Tools" menu on the bureau's homepage. * Personal Assistance. The bureau has a consumer outreach specialist available from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday, to personally assist callers with questions about opening a low- or no-cost account and walk them through the process.
"This should benefit individuals throughout our state who too often rely on people and businesses that charge significant fees," said LaFountain.