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Wells Fargo Launches Banking Inclusion Initiative to Help Unbanked

African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans Get Access yo Low-Cost Banking

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  On Monday, Wells Fargo announced the Banking Inclusion Initiative, a 10-year commitment to help unbanked individuals gain access to affordable, mainstream, digitally-enabled transactional accounts – a meaningful entry point to fully participating in the economy and achieving financial stability.

    The initiative will focus on reaching unbanked communities and, in particular, helping remove barriers to financial inclusion for Black and African American, Hispanic, and Native American/Alaska Native families, which account for more than half of America’s 7 million unbanked households1. It also will assist those who are underbanked or underserved – individuals who may have a bank account yet continue to use high cost, non-bank services and have similar needs.

   Wells Fargo will bring together multiple national and community stakeholders to roll out the broad-based initiative that is designed to increase access to affordable products, digital banking and financial guidance within unbanked communities. Through this initiative, Wells Fargo also will collaborate with partners to explore solutions to the credit challenges facing unbanked individuals.

    This year, the bank will work with partners to set and begin measuring a 10-year goal for reducing the number of people who are unbanked, with milestones along the way.

    According to 2019 FDIC data1, 12.2 percent of Hispanic households, 13.8% of Black households, and 16.3% of American Indian/Alaska Native households in the U.S. don’t have access to a mainstream checking account – compared with 2.5% of white and 1.7% of Asian households.

    The FDIC also reports that while these figures have been trending downward, the number of unbanked households will likely increase in the aftermath of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

    “We recognize the high number of unbanked households is a complex and long-standing issue that will require gathering the best minds, ideas, products and educational resources from across our communities to bring about change,” said CEO Charlie Scharf. “Through our Initiative, we will organize our resources under one umbrella and work with a broad and diverse group of stakeholders on a sustained multi-year effort to accelerate financial inclusion in the U.S.”

    The commitment will be organized around three areas:

1. Access to Affordable Products and Digital Solutions

       Wells Fargo will deepen its existing relationships with Black-owned Minority Depository Institutions (MDIs) to support their work in the communities they serve, including outreach efforts and providing the option for their customers to withdraw cash from Wells Fargo’s ATMs and incur no Wells Fargo fees. In addition, Wells Fargo is offering access to a dedicated relationship team that will work with each MDI on financial, technological and product development strategies to help strengthen and grow their institutions.

·       In recognition that unbanked and underbanked individuals need access to short-term credit, Wells Fargo will increase funding and support to expand the Credit Builders Alliance (CBA) low-cost, credit-building consumer loan program. The organization’s CBA Fund will provide patient loan capital, capacity-building grants and technical assistance to their nonprofit lender members, enabling low-cost consumer loans for low- to moderate-income (LMI) individuals to meet short term cash needs and establish or improve their credit scores.

       Wells Fargo will increase awareness and outreach about low-cost, nooverdraft fee accounts, such as Wells Fargo’s Bank On-certified Clear Access Banking.

·       Wells Fargo will broaden its collaboration with CFE Fund and local Bank On coalitions to pilot new strategies and approaches that help overcome barriers to banking access in several markets with high concentrations of unbanked households. The program will focus on helping those who are unbanked navigate the financial system, develop an easier, more seamless path for them to open a Bank On-certified account and access services they need within mainstream banking. It will be used to identify best practices that can be applied on a national scale.

·       Wells Fargo will work closely with Fintechs that are deeply committed to helping underserved communities. For instance, Wells Fargo is among the investors in Greenwood, a digital platform for Black and Latino individuals and business owners. The bank also has started a collaboration to help the Fintech MoCaFi provide banking to unbanked individuals, starting with offering MoCaFi customers the ability to use their MoCaFi debit card at Wells Fargo ATMs without incurring fees from Wells Fargo.

2. Financial Education and Advice

·       

·       Wells Fargo is working with the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) Community Development Action Coalition to launch Our Money Matters, a comprehensive financial wellness initiative for college students of color, who disproportionally face greater financial challenges and college debt. The initiative aims to equip students with much needed financial capability skills and access to support services. Over the next 3 years, the program will expand to 25 HBCUs and Minority Serving Institutions.

3. Launching National Advisory Task Force

·       Recognizing the difficulty of addressing the unbanked issue in the U.S., Wells Fargo will establish and lead a broad coalition to help with this multi-year commitment. Wells Fargo is forming a National Unbanked Advisory Task Force that will work with the bank in developing solutions to bring more people into the banking system from underserved communities, while also providing feedback on the initiatives that will be implemented and helping determine the best ways to measure success. The task force will feature representatives from leading organizations, including LULAC (League of United Latin American Citizens), NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People), National Bankers Association, NCAI (National Congress of American Indians), UnidosUS, National Urban League, and Mississippi-based Hope Enterprise Corporation.

“With branches in more communities than any other financial institution, we believe we have a responsibility to do even more to help address this issue and the pandemic has increased the urgency,” said Mary Mack, CEO of Consumer and Small Business Banking at Wells Fargo. “It is why we’re launching this comprehensive initiative. It is our hope, working closely with our partners, we will be able to make a difference over time in addressing such a critical problem for our society.”

    Edith Rocío Robles is an assistant vice president for Corporate Communications.

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Business

Emergency Federal Drought Relief Available

Farmers and ranchers interested in a disaster loan can apply on the USDA website. Small, non-farm businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, and most private nonprofits can apply for the loans by contacting the SBA at 1 (800) 659-2955 or by email. Hearing impaired individuals may call 1 (800) 877-8339.

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The Marin County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously May 18, 2021, to declare a local emergency and acknowledge the imminent threat of disaster and the severe effect on dairies and ranchers in West Marin.
The Marin County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously May 18, 2021, to declare a local emergency and acknowledge the imminent threat of disaster and the severe effect on dairies and ranchers in West Marin.

Marin and all other California counties to be eligible for assistance

Courtesy of Marin County

As California and the West Coast enter their third year of drought, Marin County and the state’s other 57 counties have been declared primary disaster areas by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The dry conditions are bad news for Marin’s farmers and ranchers, but the disaster designation status makes available emergency loans for agricultural businesses.

Additionally, the Small Business Administration (SBA) is offering Economic Injury Disaster Loans to non-farm small businesses that do business directly with farmers and ranchers, such as truckers and suppliers of agricultural equipment or services. Eligible businesses may apply for disaster loans through Dec. 8, 2022.

Farmers and ranchers interested in a disaster loan can apply on the USDA website. Small, non-farm businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, and most private nonprofits can apply for the loans by contacting the SBA at 1 (800) 659-2955 or by email. Hearing impaired individuals may call 1 (800) 877-8339.

“We want to raise awareness of the financial opportunities this drought designation provides because it may help some of these small businesses hampered by our continuing severe drought conditions,” said Marin County Agricultural Commissioner Stefan Parnay.

The federal commitment to assist businesses because of drought-related hardship extends to 23 other western states in addition to California. Small non-farm businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, and most private nonprofits of any size may qualify for SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans to help meet financial obligations and operating expenses that could have been met had the drought not occurred.

In July 2021, the State of California added Marin to its list of counties falling under its state of emergency for drought and record-breaking high temperatures statewide. Governor Gavin Newsom made the drought official in 50 of the state’s 58 counties. Since then, state agencies partnered with local water suppliers to promote conservation tips through the Save Our Water campaign.

The Marin County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously May 18, 2021, to declare a local emergency and acknowledge the imminent threat of disaster and the severe effect on dairies and ranchers in West Marin. It also made the County eligible for California Disaster Assistance and other forms of state funding and resources. The local declaration cleared the way for state authorities to aid response and recovery efforts available to the County, water suppliers, farmers, impacted businesses and residents.

Marin Water, the municipal water district serving the majority of water customers in the county, and the Novato-based North Marin Water District (NMWD) are staying in contact with the County about drought conditions. Both water districts have declared water shortage emergencies and enacted mandatory conservation measures. Marin Water serves more than 191,000 customers in central and southern Marin. NWMD serves a customer base of about 64,000 in and around Novato and parts of coastal West Marin. For localized details, see the water rules webpages for Marin Water and NMWD.

Marin residents have been asked to support local agricultural producers who have been affected by the drought right on the heels of the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2021 numerous Marin ranchers had to import water by truck to keep their animals alive while also reducing their herds. With far less vegetation for grazing because of the ongoing drought, animals are eating imported feed shipped from other states at extremely high costs to the ranchers. Additionally, a few Marin crop producers had to import water by truck to keep crops alive and fallowed approximately 150 acres, or about 50% of the 300 crop acres in the county.

“As the region enters its third year of drought, this season is going to take a significant toll on our agricultural industry,” Parnay said.

The Board of Supervisors last year approved $150,000 in drought relief funds for the agricultural industry and another $250,000 for general drought relief needs to augment other state and federal aid.

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Antonio‌ ‌Ray‌ ‌Harvey‌

California Will Be First State to Break Down Black Employee Data by Ethnic Origin

Recently, disaggregation of Black data has been a top priority for some Black lawmakers and advocates supporting reparations for Black descendants of American slavery in California. In January, Assemblymember Chris Holden (D-Pasadena), introduced AB 1604, the Upward Mobility Act of 2022, legislation that will require the state to breakdown the data of state employees by ethnic origin.

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Disaggregated data refers to the separation of compiled information into smaller units to clarify underlying trends and patterns.
Disaggregated data refers to the separation of compiled information into smaller units to clarify underlying trends and patterns.

By Antonio Ray Harvey, California Black Media

When Gov. Gavin Newsom presented the annual May revision of his budget proposal for the next fiscal year, he announced that California will establish new demographic categories when collecting data pertaining to the ethnic origin of Black state employees.

Kamilah A. Moore, the chairperson of the California Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans, said the breakdown of data is “amazing news.”

“California will become the first state in the nation to disaggregate data for its Black population by ancestry/lineage,” Moore posted on her Twitter page on May 13. “This will assist the task force in our efforts to develop comprehensive reparations proposals for descendants.”

Disaggregated data refers to the separation of compiled information into smaller units to clarify underlying trends and patterns. Newsom’s actions are similar to a bill authored by then-Assemblyman Rob Bonta.

In September 2016, former Gov. Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill (AB) 1726 into law that required the state Department of Public Health to separate demographic data it collects by ethnicity or ancestry for Native Hawaiian, Asian, and Pacific Islander groups.

Recently, disaggregation of Black data has been a top priority for some Black lawmakers and advocates supporting reparations for Black descendants of American slavery in California. In January, Assemblymember Chris Holden (D-Pasadena), introduced AB 1604, the Upward Mobility Act of 2022, legislation that will require the state to breakdown the data of state employees by ethnic origin.

The Assembly Committee on Appropriations is currently reviewing the bill.

AB 1604 promotes mobility for people of color in California’s civil services system and requires diversity on state boards and commissions. Newsom vetoed AB 105 last year, the legislative forerunner to AB 1604, which Holden also introduced.

Shortly after he was appointed chair of the Assembly Committee on Appropriations in January, Holden reintroduced the legislation as AB 1604.

Holden, a member of the California Legislative Black Caucus, said AB 1604 will give the Reparations Task Force more accurate data to utilize in its study and deliberations. The bill was passed by the Assembly Committee on Public Employment and Retirement on March 14.

In a written statement released in October last year, Newsom said he vetoed AB 105 because “the bill conflicts with existing constitutional requirements, labor, agreements, and current data collections efforts” but found disaggregation useful for dissecting data about California’s workforce.

As stated in his 2022-2023 May revision of the state budget, under the section titled “State Workforce Demographic Data Collection,” Newsom proposed the separation of Black employee data beginning with the state’s 2.5 million-plus employees.

The Department of Human Resources (CalHR) will work with the State Controller to establish new demographic categories for the collection of data pertaining to the ancestry or ethnic origin of African American employees.

The collection of this data, the document states, “continues CalHR’s duties to maintain statistical information necessary for the evaluation of equal employment opportunity and upward mobility within state civil service.”

In March, the nine-member Task Force to Study and Develop Reparations Proposals for African Americans decided with a 5-4 vote that lineage will determine who will be eligible for reparations.

The May revision also includes $1.5 million in funding for the Department of Justice to continue supporting the work of the Task Force to Study and Develop Reparations Proposals for African Americans

Supporters of disaggregation say it will serve as a key tool for the task force as it enters its second year of studying slavery and its lingering effects on African Americans.

The state’s reparations task force will recommend what compensation should be and how it should be paid by July 2023.

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Bay Area

SoCal Group Holds Black-Themed Commencement, Presents Scholarships for Local High School Grads

The Buffongs say 694 students signed up for the Black graduation event their company held in conjunction with the Cooperative Economic Empowerment Movement (CEEM) and a myriad of other sponsors. In addition to celebrating the students’ achievements, the Buffongs say the event held at the Los Angeles County Fair Grounds in Pomona introduced members of the class of 2022 to culturally significant career, social and civic opportunities.

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More than 670 Black graduates from various high schools come to a special graduation at the Los Angeles County Fairgrounds in Pomona on May 13, 2022.
More than 670 Black graduates from various high schools come to a special graduation at the Los Angeles County Fairgrounds in Pomona on May 13, 2022.

SoCal Group Holds Black-Themed Commencement, Presents Scholarships for Local High School Grads

By Aldon Thomas Stiles, California Black Media

This past weekend in the Inland Empire, a San Bernardino couple welcomed hundreds of African American high school graduates from the region for a joyous multi high school, Black-themed graduation celebration.

“Sometimes we have students doing magnificent things and nobody sees them,” said Keynasia Buffong, co-founder of Buffong Consultation Solutions, the company that organized the celebration honoring graduates from various high schools in the area.

Keynasia Buffong co-owns the firm with her husband Jonathan Buffong. The couple wants to expand the mass graduation event to all regions in the state.

“When you come into your community, we see you. We recognize you,” Kaynasia Buffong continued.

The Buffongs say 694 students signed up for the Black graduation event their company held in conjunction with the Cooperative Economic Empowerment Movement (CEEM) and a myriad of other sponsors.

In addition to celebrating the students’ achievements, the Buffongs say the event held at the Los Angeles County Fair Grounds in Pomona introduced members of the class of 2022 to culturally significant career, social and civic opportunities.

Black Greek organizations attended the weekend-long event as well as the first Black valedictorian of Beaumont High School where African American students make up a little under 7% of the student population.

“We got a chance to give away $27,000 in scholarships,” said Keynasia.

Both Buffongs are educators and student advocates in California. They have been hosting the graduation event appreciating Black students for over 11 years.

But the Buffongs say celebrating success always comes with a reminder of the challenges Black students face.

According to the California Department of Education, at 72.5%, Black students had the lowest high school graduation rate among all other racial or ethnic groups at the end of the 2020 to 2021 academic year.

Jonathan said one of their goals is to help graduates transition into the next stage of their academic life, whether that be a four-year university, community college, trade school, or employment.

“Sometimes they don’t know where to go or what to do,” said Keynasia. “There’s mentorship and sponsorship and we aim to have both.”

For the scholarship awards, the Buffongs are not just looking at grades but the full context of the graduates’ lives.

“Whether it’s COVID, deaths, family or health issues, disabilities, we’re looking for things to support them on so we can get them to the next level,” said Jonathan.

Outside of academic and career success, the Buffongs spoke about the importance of Black cultural exposure through education and traditional practices such as the Black national anthem and a libation ceremony.

The libation ceremony is performed by an elder in the community as a way to honor one’s ancestors. It is significant in various African cultures as well as other cultures around the globe.

The Buffongs say their next step is to look into more internship opportunities and figure out how to help curb the high numbers of Black high school graduates who leave the state to pursue opportunities elsewhere.

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