New program aims to help one in five Illinois households without bank accounts

One in five households in Illinois do not use, or rarely use banks, that number is even higher in some rural areas of the state. The Center Square

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One in five households in Illinois do not use, or rarely use banks, that number is even higher in some rural areas of the state.

Instead of banks, some residents turn to other, more costly options for banking services and borrowing money. Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza appeared together Monday to announce the state’s new Bank On initiative.

Pritzker said the Bank On program will make it easier for those who are more susceptible to predatory lenders to get access to banks and the resources of financial institutions.

“The Bank On program will allow any Illinois resident to go online and plug in their address to find verified, quality banking options in their area,” the governor said. “These low- or no-fee, no minimum balance accounts already exist across our state. People just need the tools to find them.”

The Bank On program will certify bank products that provide fair financial service options, such as no maintenance fees, low minimum deposits, low or no overdraft fees and alternative IDs. Bank On will also work to help connect low income residents with secured personal loans.

Mendoza said the program “will help them break that cycle and offer a second chance to those with troubled financial histories to get back on the right track.”

Illinois is the first state in the nation to offer such a program. However, is has been rolled out in several cities across the nation.

According to statistics released by the comptroller’s office, the lack of access to traditional banking is an issue statewide. The number of residents who are unbanked or underbanked in Cook County is about 30 percent. That figure is higher in other parts of the state. Macon County in central Illinois and Alexander County in far southern Illinois have unbanked and underbanked rates of about 35 percent.

Senate Bill 1332, which created the Bank On initiative, received unanimous support in both the Illinois House and Senate this past spring.

Officials said they expect the Bank On program will be rolled out and running by early 2020.

The Center Square

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