With over 37,000 unbanked households and 72,000 underbanked households, the District of Columbia exhibits a strong need for ready access to financial products and cohesive financial education. As such, CFEF has partnered with the District’s Deputy Mayor’s Office of Planning and Economic Development (DMPED) to manage Bank on DC, a program that integrates community, municipal, and financial partners to offer District residents free checking and savings accounts with no monthly fees, no minimum balance requirements, and no overdraft charges.
“Many unbanked District residents are forced to rely on alternative financial services just to cash their checks or pay their bills,” says Michelle Dee, Bank on DC’s Program Manager at DMPED. In an effort to bring about greater financial equality in the city, Dee says that the program can help people “save money on fees, build assets, and save money for the future.”
Over 2,500 Bank on DC accounts have been opened since the program’s inception in March 2010. While Dee counts this number as a success, she finds that one of Bank on DC’s most promising strategies has been the program’s “ability to provide financial products with financial education.” By offering expertise in financial education, outreach, and development, CFEF has been integral to this two-pronged approach. In addition to this financial education strategy, CFEF and DMPED have spearheaded a targeted community and employer-based approach to drive education and account enrollment, including joining forces with Capital Area Asset Builders (CAAB) to register recipients of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) in Bank on DC accounts on the spot.
These approaches, nonetheless, are not the final goal of the program. “A bank account is just the first step to financial security,” Dee adds. “Combined with quality financial education, Bank on DC can garner success by ensuring that everyone in the District has the opportunity to open safe and affordable bank accounts.”