Fifteen leading financial reform and organized labor groups on Monday announced the launch of a national campaign demanding that the U.S. Postal Service expand its existing financial services to create a broader, low-cost, banking "public option" for lower income people and struggling communities.
The coalition aims to drive out predatory non-bank financial service providers such as high-cost payday lenders and check cashers, giving millions of working families and retirees fair access to credit and money services from a trusted source: their nearest U.S. Post Office. Commonomics USA, a leading advocate for nonprofit postal banking across the nation, announced it is joining the new coalition.
“Some 29 percent of U.S. households – 93 million people – can’t access affordable check cashing, money transfer, bill pay and other basic financial services,” said Commonomics USA president Marc Armstrong, “services that most Americans take for granted. This lack of access is bad for families, bad for business and for the nation’s economy as a whole.”
Offering these services inexpensively at America’s 30,000 post offices, Armstrong added, “will let families put their own hard-earned money to productive use, instead of feeding ‘preyday lenders,’ while reducing reliance on public assistance at no cost to taxpayers — a major win for society as a whole.”
Independent studies reveal that lower-income families and retirees spend billions of dollars a year on exorbitantly-priced basic financial services, often because they have nowhere else to turn. These costs can rival the amount a family spends on food, reported USPS Inspector General David C. Williams in a widely cited January 2014 paper.
The USPS already offers a variety of basic financial services, ranging from domestic money orders to international electronic money transfers. Postal clerks also cash U.S. Treasury checks, such as tax refunds. “The USPS can readily extend its clerks’ money handling expertise into other basic financial services, such as reloadable money cards,” said Armstrong.
Other countries are far ahead of the U.S. in this area, he noted. “USPS financial services, the public option, would finally let Americans enjoy the same money-handling speed and convenience enjoyed by billions of people worldwide. That’s part of our vision.”
Founding members of the Campaign for Postal Banking coalition include:
Alliance for Retired Americans
Americans for Financial Reform
American Postal Workers Union
Center for Study of Responsive Law
Coalition of Black Trade Unionists
Interfaith Worker Justice
National Association of Letter Carriers
National People’s Action
National Postal Mail Handlers Union
National Rural Letter Carriers Association
United for a Fair Economy
Commonomics USA, formerly BankACT, advocates economic solutions that grow our nation’s common wealth. The organization spotlights ways that private interests are defunding and privatizing the commons, and shows how their actions devastate families and diminish communities. Commonomics USA fights privatization and demands that the commons be funded and expanded to more fully benefit everyone. Postal banking is Commonomics USA’s first major initiative.