WASHINGTON (4/30/08)—The U.S. Treasury Department Tuesday launched an initiative to improve financial education efforts and increase access to credit union and bank accounts for Americans “currently outside of the financial mainstream.” The Community Financial Access Pilot will provide low- and moderate-income people in selected communities with needed access to financial services. The initiative was recommended by the President's Advisory Council on Financial Literacy. "Through this pilot, Treasury will work with banks, credit unions, community leaders, and educational providers to target the nearly 10% of American households estimated to fall outside the financial mainstream," said Dan Iannicola, Jr., Treasury deputy assistant secretary for financial education. Iannicola announced the initiative in Jacksonville, Fla., one of eight communities participating in the new pilot program. The other participating communities include Brownsville, Texas; Cowlitz County, Wash.; Eastern Kentucky; Mississippi Delta, Miss.; Fresno, Calif.; Philadelphia, Pa.; and St. Louis, Mo. "Having a bank account is a critical part of being able to participate in our vibrant economic system," said Charles Schwab, chairman of the President's Advisory Council on Financial Literacy. "This pilot will target the low-income families who need access to basic financial services, so they can stop paying outrageous fees just to cash a check or pay a bill. It will also give low-income families access to basic financial education so that they can begin to build a better future." The number of families using alternative financial service providers is estimated to be as high as 50 million, according to Treasury. The Credit Union National Association (CUNA), leagues and credit unions also support financial literacy efforts for all Americans. CUNA earlier this week announced new features to its financial literacy clearinghouse: cunapfi.org. The clearinghouse provides information for anyone in the credit union movement looking for statistics, methods, and materials to improve the ability of members and potential members to manage their money wisely using credit union services. Among the most recent additions to cunapfi.org:
* Evidence and ideology in assessing the effectiveness of financial literacy education. (Research analysis from Lauren E. Willis, University of Pennsylvania Law School.); * A look at the financial state of Gen X and Gen Y." (A new study from the American Savings Education Council and AARP.) * A 2008 parents and money survey.(The views, behavior, and knowledge of spending, saving, borrowing, and earning money of American teenagers between the ages of 13-18, as seen through the eyes of their parents, from the Charles Schwab Corp.) * "Here's your chance to tell the government what to do;" an online soapbox for comments for the President's Advisory Council on Financial Literacy—requires free registration/login. * Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. statement on financial literacy and education. (Congressional testimony from the FDIC's Robert W. Mooney.)
"We hope that financial literacy advocates throughout the credit union movement will use cunapfi.org as a jumping-off point for their efforts to help people of all ages and economic means make better use of their income and build wealth," Mark Condon, senior vice president of CUNA's Research & Advisory Services, said recently.