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Rockford CUs join Treasurers Bank on program
NAPERVILLE, Ill. (10/8/09)--Three Rockford area credit unions joined Illinois State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias at an Oct. 1 press conference to officially kick off the “Bank on Illinois” program in Rockford, Ill.
Illinois State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias looks on as Karen Jurasek, CEO of Generations CU, Rockford, Ill., speaks at a press conference for “Bank on Rockford”--a program that aims to offer unbanked residents from underserved and minority communities free or low-cost accounts with mainstream financial institutions, including credit unions. (Photo provided by the Illinois Credit Union League)
“Bank on Rockford” is a program that aims to offer unbanked residents from underserved and minority communities near Rockford free and/or low-cost accounts with mainstream financial institutions. Credit unions are part of this effort. Partner organizations, which include local not-for-profit agencies and financial institutions including credit unions, hope to sign up 1,000 individuals in the Rockford area in the next year. The three area participating credit unions in the program were represented at the press conference: First Northern CU, Chicago; Generations CU, Rockford; and MembersAlliance CU, Rockford. To participate, financial institutions must offer free or low-cost checking and savings accounts, “second chance” accounts for people with negative credit histories, and accept tax identification numbers, Matricula Consular and other foreign IDs in place of Social Security numbers. To qualify for an account, residents must have a history free of identity theft and fraud. They will be encouraged to enroll in financial literacy training courses. So far, two states--California and Illinois--are offering the program. Rockford is the first Illinois city to participate. Aurora will be the second city with an informational meeting to be held today. Rockford is home to roughly 4,600 unbanked households, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts/Safe Banking Project. The households rely on check cashers, payday lenders and pawn shops--instead of a bank or credit union--to cash checks, pay bills and borrow or wire money. The average unbanked household in Illinois pays $574 a year just to cash payroll checks, leaving $22,376 in remaining income. “Too many Rockford residents are ripped off by check cashers and payday lenders and become trapped in an endless spiral of debt,” Giannoulias said. “Having access to traditional checking and savings accounts will translate into financial independence and empowerment.” “Many of the non-profit partners provide essential elements such as housing and job training, but their clients lack the skills necessary to manage their housing expense and their paycheck,” Karen Jurasek, CEO of Generations, said at the press conference. “This is the point of referral to our credit unions and banks--that can provide the services and educational tools needed for financial security.” “By participating in Bank on Rockford, community groups and non-profit organizations will refer people to our credit union who truly need our help,” said Ed Berg, Illinois Credit Union League director and CEO of First Northern CU. “Without partner referrals, we may never be able to reach many of these people.” Nationally, 65% of unbanked residents are employed full-time and another 24% work part-time, Pew reports. However, more than half of unbanked households say they’ve never had a checking account because of misperception about and distrust of banks.
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