The City of Akron, in partnership with United Way of Summit County, announced today that it has received a $90,000 grant from national nonprofit the Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund (CFE Fund). The grant will advance the city’s banking access efforts by funding the creation of a two-year fellowship position at United Way of Summit County tasked with launching and coordinating the efforts of a local Bank On coalition, Bank On Rubber City. This will be one of five such fellowships funded nationally; there are over 65 coalitions nationwide, but this will be the first in the State of Ohio.
The goal of CFE Fund’s Bank On program is to ensure that everyone has access to safe and affordable financial products and services. Local Bank On coalitions across the country, largely led by or working closely with local government, work to expand access to appropriate financial products and services to the over 65 million people outside of the mainstream financial system who rely on alternative, costly financial services.
According to the Corporation for Enterprise Development, 13 percent of Akron households are “unbanked” – nearly twice the national average. Without a checking or savings account, these families often pay too much for basic financial transactions. The average full-time worker without a bank account can spend $40,000 over the course of their lifetime just to cash checks. Another 20.5 percent of Akron households are “underbanked,” meaning they make use of fringe, often costly, financial services.
“The long-term success of our community depends on maintaining a strong urban core, with a growing economy and a healthy, stable population. But, we cannot achieve progress as a city if our residents lack access to healthy financial relationships,” Mayor Dan Horrigan said. “We are grateful for the partnership of the United Way of Summit County, in recognizing that hardworking Akron households deserve better opportunities to increase their financial knowledge, independence, and health. This Bank On coalition grant will catalyze financial freedom—by equipping us with the manpower, training, tools, and resources we need to empower residents and improve lives.”
Earlier this year, United Way of Summit County announced four Bold Goals that will guide its impact work over the coming years. For its Bold Goal #3, United Way is working to financially empower 11,000 Akron residents, especially those who are working, but who are struggling to get traction financially. Bank On Rubber City will form a critical part of United Way’s strategic plan to meet this goal.
“The overall health of our local economy depends on the financial wellbeing of thousands of individual families,” says Jim Mullen, president and CEO of United Way of Summit County. “Yet 57 percent of Akron households earn less than Ohio’s basic cost of living. Providing those families with the resources they need to build stable lives, budget effectively and save for their children’s futures is a vital investment in the long-term prosperity of Summit County.”
The CFE Fund leads the national Bank On movement, supporting city coalitions working to connect individuals and families to the financial mainstream through partnerships between local governments, financial institutions and community organizations.
The national Bank On Fellowship Program provides funding to five Bank On coalitions to support a full-time staff position for two years — a “fellow” — to lead coalition activities. It is the first national initiative focused on building a multi-city cohort of successful Bank On program coordinators, equipping them with the resources and tools needed to make significant advancements in local banking access efforts while at the same time generating best practices for other coalitions around the country. The Bank On Fellows initiative is part of Wells Fargo's $1 million investment to support the national Bank On movement.
“For millions of adults, meeting basic financial needs—like paying bills or depositing and using their paychecks—is a costly struggle,” said Jonathan Mintz, President and CEO of the Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund. “Bank On coalitions across the country do critical work helping consumers access safe, affordable accounts, but often lack vital resources like staff leadership. We are proud to support Bank On Rubber City and their new fellow, Nicole Chavers, in helping Akron residents connect to safe financial products.”
“Strengthening the economic viability of our communities is one of Wells Fargo’s corporate social responsibility priorities,” said Shelley Marquez, Wells Fargo Senior Vice President and Community Relations Senior Manager. “We believe it’s important to focus on creating long-term solutions to the obstacles that keep many people out of the financial mainstream and are proud to sponsor the Bank On Fellowship program, which will allow coalitions to devote full-time resources to this critical work.”
Wells Fargo’s investment in the Bank On initiative also supports additional CFE Fund resources to local coalitions, boosting its efforts to expand access to safe and affordable financial products and services. The CFE Fund provides funding and technical assistance to help coalitions improve availability of appropriate low-cost, low-fee transactional bank accounts that are certified as meeting the Bank On National Account Standards.
The Bank On National Account Standards identify critical product features for appropriate bank or credit union accounts, making it easier for local coalitions across the country to connect consumers to accounts that meet their needs. Core account features include low costs, no overdraft fees, robust transaction capabilities such as a debit or prepaid card, and online bill pay.