Post Office Financial Services Could Help Traditionally Under-Banked Residents
Lily Bohlke – Commonwealth News Service
BOSTON — Advocates for postal banking contend having more financial services accessible at U.S. Postal Service locations could help the nation make a more equitable recovery from the COVID-19 economic crisis.
More than 12 million people, or 6% of American adults, don’t have a bank account. Another 16% are “under-banked,” who have a bank account but also use money orders, check-cashing services, payday loans or tax credit advances.
Porter McConnell, campaign director for Take on Wall Street, said these alternative financial services often can be predatory, or charge exorbitantly high rates. She argued postal banking could fill a crucial gap.
“It’s infrastructure that’s already there,” McConnell pointed out. “It’s a very skilled workforce. And the universal service mandate of the post office means that everybody gets to be served by the post office. “
Statistics show 14% of Black residents and 11% of Latino residents are unbanked, compared with just 4% of Caucasian residents.
McConnell noted big Wall Street banks often have closed branches in rural or low-income communities, leaving behind banking deserts.
McConnell thinks the prospects for implementing postal banking in the U.S. are better than ever. It was included in the Democratic Party platform last year, as well as a draft of the CARES Act, and President Joe Biden has indicated his support.
“There’s a lot of underbanked and unbanked communities in the middle of Boston, and there’s a lot of unbanked or underbanked communities out in the hill country in western Massachusetts,” McConnell outlined. “And so, what’s great about it is that it serves both of those communities really well.”
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass, and Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass, are among the supporters of postal banking in Congress.
Warren has said it could also help the U.S. Postal Service find its own financial footing. The agency has lost $69 billion in the last decade, according to the Government Accountability Office.