I had the pleasure of speaking with Michelle Laymon, Family Economic Success Manager at Cope about the financial program, Bank on Napa. She explained to me that many Napa County low-income residents are financially under-served. There are a few reasons for these obstacles to financial services: language barriers, lack of knowledge or distrust of banks, or undocumented status. Many are unbanked (do not have a bank account) and spend considerably more of their money on expensive alternative banking options such as check cashing or payday lending services than they would on regular banking fees. Others are under-banked, and have an account but still utilize expensive options for paying bills such as money orders and cashiers checks. “…unbanked customers spend at least two percent of income to access alternative financial services, spending between $800-$2000 annually to cash checks and pay bills” (Michele Grupe, Bank on Napa Valley). With approximately 26.5% of Napa County residents living with incomes too small to pay all of their expenses, these additional banking fees are detrimental to their ability to utilize all of their income (Michele Grupe, Bank on Napa Valley). As Michelle says, Bank on Napa Valley helps residents hang on to more of their money.
What is Bank on Napa Valley? Bank on Napa Valley is based on other successful Bank On initiatives (San Francisco, Oakland and Sacramento, to name a few), and is a collaborative effort of the Self-Sufficiency Committee of the Napa Valley Coalition of Nonprofit Agencies (Michele Grupe, Bank on Napa Valley). Their goal is to connect working people and families with banking services to fit their needs, helping them to enter the financial mainstream (Michele Grupe, Bank on Napa Valley). The BONV Steering Committee is made up of Cope Family Center as lead agency, Puertas Abiertas, McPherson Family Resource Center, Calistoga Family Center and NEWS. The goal of the BONV committees is to design and provide a minimum of five financial starter and second chance accounts, as well as financial education; soliciting 15 financial institutions to provide the products by the January 2013 launch. At least 100 eligible consumers will be surveyed as to their financial needs. The desired outcome of a program like Bank on Napa Valley is that working families can have access to low or no-cost bank accounts that help them to save their hard-earned dollars, function productively in a financial emergency, and invest in their futures. The financial education provided by BONV will go a long way to support a healthy financial lifestyle such as learning to budget and identifying needs versus wants in a culturally sensitive way.
Local banks are crucial to the success of the BONV program. Sandra J. Re, Vice President/Premier Client Services Officer of Rabo Bank, sums it up by saying, “Our goal is to offer banking services to those who are uncomfortable with the idea of banking. If we can educate people about the services a bank can offer them that can make their lives easier as well as save them time and money, we can make Bank on Napa Valley a ‘win-win’ for everyone.”
By Jennifer Sunseri, Cope Online Organizing Intern
The Bank On Napa Valley project is rolling! But that doesn’t mean it’s too late to get on board. Contact Michelle Laymon, marketing and outreach chair, firstname.lastname@example.org, to plug in.
What the committees have been up to:
Financial Product Committee has met several times and is connecting with financial institutions throughout Napa County that have a Bank On program through corporate headquarters. They are also working with our local community banks to develop product packages. The chair of this committee is Tracy Calkins at Mechanics Bank.
Data Tracking Committee has met and developed an initial survey that will is being piloted currently through the Family Resource Centers and will help the product development committee focus on the specific needs of our community. This committee is also responsible for data tracking long term to help evaluate the effectiveness of the program. The chair of this committee is Jaclyn Kordell with McPherson Family Resource Center.
Sponsorship Committee has also been meeting and is having good success. This committee is responsible for receiving funds(in-kind, donations, grant funding) and disseminating funds. The co-chairs for this committee are Michele Grupe of Cope Family Center and Rejane Brito of Puertas Abiertas Community Resource Center.
Marketing and Outreach Committee meets later this month!
Why get involved? Check out our earlier post on the Bank On project.
Bank On USA is a national project to bring unbanked individuals (those using check-cashing services) into the financial mainstream, removing barriers to open accounts at banks and credit unions. We are excited to be a lead agency in bringing this project to Napa. The program began when EARN co-founded Bank on San Francisco in 2006. Since its inception, this innovative program has helped low-income San Francisco residents switch from disreputable check-cashing services that often charge usurious interest rates to free or low-cost bank accounts. The result: in just four years, tens of thousands of “unbanked” San Franciscans have been successfully brought into the financial mainstream.
Our Family Economic Success program works with families to build assets and financial stability, so we consider the Bank On USA project a great way to improve the lives of families in Napa County. Bank On USA projects can be found in communities nationwide and soon the program will be available in Napa County.
Baseline features of Bank on accounts:
No monthly minimum balance requirement
Open accounts for those with NSF/overdraft histories on ChexSystems of over one year
Waiver of one set of NSF/overdraft fees per year
Allow acceptable forms of ID, including the Matircula Consular Card and Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN)
The typical Bank on CA consumer:
Believes they are locked out of the banking system.
Has a fear of discomfort or humiliation when dealing with bankers and may distrust banks.
Is African-American or Latino, may speak Spanish.
Is between the ages of 18-45.
Earns a low wage, although an estimated 25% of the audience earns $25,000 to $45,000 per year.
Bank on Napa County is still in the formative stages, and a project of this scale requires the volunteer participation of banks, credit unions, government, community organizations, and passionate individuals. There are several opportunities to use your skills and get involved. Email Michelle Laymon at email@example.com to express your interest.