Financial, corporate and community groups announce new initiative to help underserved access bank accounts

by Roby Brock (roby@talkbusiness.net) 457 views 

A statewide coalition of financial institutions, large corporations and community nonprofits are pooling their resources to launch a new banking option for undeserved Arkansans.

Bank On Arkansas+, a special project of the Arkansas Asset Funders Network, is hoping to reverse these trends: one in 10 Arkansas household have no bank account. Of those that do, over 22% rely on alternative services to access their own money to cover basic expenses such as rent, utilities, food and medicine.

The new effort is a partnership among financial institutions and community organizations to promote “safer” accounts that are free or low-cost and have no to low opening deposit requirements and no overdraft fees. Participating groups include Bank of America, Diamond Lakes Federal Credit Union, IberiaBank, Southern Bancorp, U.S. Bank, and Wells Fargo. Citizens Bank, First Community Bank, First Security Bank, and Simmons Bank are in the process of having their accounts certified for the Bank On program. Additionally,

“IberiaBank is proud to partner with Bank On Arkansas and support the goal of ensuring that everyone has access to safe and affordable financial products and services. Our communities can only be stronger by investing in resources that provide the opportunities for all to learn more about managing money,” said Phillip Jett, president of Central and Northwest Arkansas for IberiaBank.

“Entergy Arkansas sees Bank On Arkansas+ as a tremendously beneficial initiative for those of our customers who live under tough financial circumstances,” said Tom Kennedy, vice president of regulatory and public affairs for Entergy Arkansas. “Having a bank account opens doors and protects people from financial predators. We’re proud to support a program with so much potential for improvements in the lives of those who need it most.”

The Bank On Arkansas+ initiative will officially open for business with a media tour in early November.

COMMUNITY GROUPS OFFER TRUST
The bank account program will network in underserved and low-income communities where banking operations are scarce.

Arkansas Asset Funders Network said that nonprofits and other community partners are trusted sources of information within underserved communities that can help a broad range of clients understand how banking can support their efforts to become more financially independent and reach their goals.

According to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the number one reason people do not have a bank account is that they believe they “don’t have enough money” to open and maintain an account. This concern is sometimes compounded by the fear of encountering high and unpredictable fees, including overdraft fees.

“The University of Arkansas at Little Rock is pleased to be included in the coalition of partners supporting the mission of the Arkansas Asset Funders Network’s Bank On Arkansas+ initiative. I applaud their efforts to serve the unbanked and underbanked in promoting financial literacy and relationship building with trusted financial institutions and community partners. Our missions are aligned in our intention to elevate lives through education,” said Dr. Andrew Rogerson, Chancellor of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

“Community action agencies seek to promote household stability and movement towards economic security among low- to moderate-income Arkansans, while also supporting positive community initiatives through strategic partnerships,” said Terry Bearden, interim chief operations officer for Arkansas Community Action Agencies Association, Inc. “The community action agencies in Arkansas will provide referrals to participating local financial institutions as part of their strategic approach to meeting local needs and promoting positive family and community outcomes.”

Bank On Arkansas+ is supported by sponsorships from Arvest, Carl B. and Florence E. King Foundation, Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund, Entergy Arkansas, First Security Bank, IBERIABANK, Regions Bank, and Southern Bancorp.

The coalition is continually accepting partnership opportunities from financial institutions, nonprofits, and other organizations that want to engage in the initiative. To request more information, email Stephanie Matthews, director of Bank On Arkansas+, at stephanie@assetfunders.org.

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