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A New California Bill Seeks To Address Racial And Economic Inequities Through Public Banking




A view of the California State Capitol February 19, 2009 in Sacramento, California.
A view of the California State Capitol February 19, 2009 in Sacramento, California.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

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Several state lawmakers have signed on to a new bill that would offer California households free financial services— a move that could help families navigate the economic fallout from the pandemic.

If it’s passed, the bill would create BankCal, the first state government program in the nation to offer universal consumer banking. Through the program, participants could receive no-fee debit cards, direct deposits from employers and government agencies, electronic bill payment and ATM access, directly competing with private banks. The California Bankers Association opposes the bill, and argues that the state’s financial institutions already offer lower cost banking options. But the issues of the “underbanked” have become increasingly central during the COVID-19 pandemic, as racial and economic inequities widen. “The bill creates a way for Californians to bank without paying exorbitant fees — money that could be used for food and rent or rebuilding from the economic devastation wreaked by the pandemic,” said Assemblyman Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles), a lead author of the measure, Assembly Bill 1177. “If a rich person earns money, that money makes money. When a poor person earns money, that money is gouged from every corner. Financial institutions make enormous profit off the backs of those who … they say they help.”

Today on AirTalk, we’re learning more about the California Public Banking Option Act. Questions? Give us a call at 866-893-5722.

Guests: 

Jyotswaroop Bawa, organizing and campaigns director for the California Reinvestment Coalition, which focuses on financial and banking needs in communities of color and low-income communities and is based in San Francisco; she tweets @JyotswaroopK

Rodney Ramcharan, professor of finance and business economics at USC, he served as the first chief of the Systemic Financial Institutions and Markets Section at the Board Governors of the Federal Reserve System

Jack Humphreville, commentator on local and state budget and politics matters, member of the Neighborhood Council Budget Advocates, a group that gives feedback to city leaders on the budget, and a contributor to CityWatch, an online publication covering issues involving the City of Los Angeles; he tweets @Jack90020