AUGUSTA, Maine (1/26/10)--Donna Steckino, president/CEO of Community CU in Lewiston and Auburn, Maine, testified on behalf of Maine’s credit unions and the Maine Credit Union League before the state Insurance and Financial Services committee in Augusta. She testified in support of Legislative Document 1649, Resolve to Increase the Financial Stability of Low-Income Families in Maine. The bill would create a working group, which would include a credit union representative, and focus on:
* Developing and marketing starter accounts with features to benefit low-income families; * Educate families without accounts about the benefits of account ownership and encourage those families to open accounts; * Educate and assist families with basic money management skills; * Create coalitions of financial institutions, regulators, municipal officials and nonprofits to market the accounts to families.
The committee voted to pass the bill. Maine’s legislature will vote on it in the coming weeks, the league said. “Financial difficulties impact such a big part of our lives so anything we can do to help make the situation better for people can make a big difference, not just financially but psychologically as well,” Steckino said. “Part of our outreach has included providing opportunities to people who have little or no understanding of how to handle public finances,” she added. “Maine credit unions provide ongoing, free learning opportunities to our members and the public on topics such as how to manage a checking account, preparing a budget and the concept and importance of saving.” The committee said it was impressed by Maine credit unions’ efforts to expose high school students to financial education and praised the 15 Financial Fitness--A Money Management Experience--fairs that Maine credit unions coordinate annually, the league said. Steckino also outlined special programs offered by Maine credit unions to help low-income members. Some credit unions offer special checking accounts that require no minimum balance, assess no monthly fees, have no limitations on the number or amount of transactions, no per check fees and no cost to open the account. Lloyd LaFountain, superintendent of the Bureau of Financial Institutions--who would lead the working group the bill creates--also praised Maine’s credit unions. “Through the shared branching network, members have the ability to access and conduct financial transactions at locations across the state, which eliminates some of the access barriers that low-income families face,” he said.