IBJOpinion

EDITORIAL: Program gives people a financial leg up

 IBJ Staff
October 3, 2009
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IBJ Editorial

“Can I write you a check?”

“I need to stop at the ATM.”

“I’ll pay with my debit card.”

Those are routine expressions for most of us. But not so for 10 percent of Indianapolis residents—the ones without a bank account.

That’s right—nearly 80,000 people in the city are “unbanked” and therefore lack this basic building block to financial health. A bank account seems such a simple thing. But without it, people are unlikely to save money, own their home, or support themselves in retirement.

Instead, they’ll keep cash on hand and spend 5 percent of their income on check-cashing and money orders. They’re likely to be poor and stay poor.

A new program called Bank on Indy aims to change that. The campaign, which launches this month, will offer free or low-cost bank accounts to people without one.

Bank on Indy is a partnership comprising Mayor Greg Ballard and his wife, Winnie; 12 banks and credit unions; social service providers; and the Federal Reserve Bank, among others.

This is exactly the type of public-private cooperation that has helped the city overcome other daunting challenges. We congratulate the banks for their willingness to work with risky customers, who could turn out to be successful longtime clients. These new-account holders may become full participants in the economy, building not only their own assets but those of our community.

Bank on Indy is modeled after similar efforts in San Francisco, where 31,000 accounts were opened, and in Evansville, where 324 accounts have been opened in the first six months of the program.

Bank on Indy’s financial education component should help assure that, once people get an account, they know how to use it responsibly. Some people don’t have accounts because of prior problems.

“Second chances seem hard to come by in the financial world, but second chances are well worth the investment,” Winnie Ballard said upon announcing the program.

A bank account—it’s a simple thing, but an essential first step in becoming truly self-sufficient.

A turning point for IPS?

After years of hemorrhaging more than 1,000 students a year, the bleeding at Indianapolis Public Schools has nearly stopped.

IPS lost 300 students this year, far less than the 1,900 it had expected to lose. It’s the smallest decline since charter schools were introduced here seven years ago.

That is good news for Indianapolis. A strong city needs strong schools—and not just in the suburbs. Today’s students are tomorrow’s workers, so a healthier IPS ultimately means a healthier local economy.

This sudden stabilization in enrollment may mean that some of IPS’ investment in creative programs is paying off. Indeed, two of its newest ones, the Shortridge Magnet High School for Law and Public Policy and the arts and humanities magnet at Broad Ripple High School, have waiting lists. In all, 590 students are on waiting lists at 17 IPS schools. And 120 other students chose to attend IPS although they live outside the district.

A one-year change does not a trend make. But it’s a long-awaited positive sign. Our compliments to IPS.•

__________

To comment on these editorials, write to ibjedit@ibj.com.


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