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Program aims to help low-income Angelenos open bank accounts

March 24, 2009 | 12:37 pm

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa today announced a new initiative aimed at helping at least 10,000 low-income households open bank accounts at mainstream financial institutions every year.

Villaraigosa said at a news conference this morning that nearly 300,000 households in Los Angeles do not have checking or savings accounts, and a single households spends up to $1,000 a year in check cashing fees and other transactions that are normally free at a bank. The new program is called Bank on Los Angeles.

"Bank on L.A. will offer all Angelenos the tools [to] open bank accounts, save for the future, climb another rung on the economic ladder and punch their ticket to economic growth for years to come," Villaraigosa said.

Banks that have signed up with the program, including Bank of America, Citibank and Kinecta Federal Credit Union, have agreed to waive regular checking account fees or offer low-cost accounts for participants. The program will include a bilingual marketing and education campaign touting the benefits of opening checking accounts and describing how the banking system works.

Officials said some people do not have bank accounts because they lack a Social Security number. To resolve that issue, participating banks will accept other forms of recognized identification, including the matricula consular, an identification card issued by the Mexican government.

-- Alexandra Zavis