January 2019 Newsletter

DATA, DATA, Where To Find The DATA?

“Are you a Bank On coalition member, wondering how to get access to better data on Bank On accounts? Are you a financial institution considering whether to offer Bank On certified accounts, but are unsure as to what the demand will be? Or, are you simply curious as to what role the Bank On movement plays in decreasing the unbanked the underbanked rates? “(Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis October 30,2018)

In November 2018, results of the Bank On National Data Pilot were released, and showed the high demand for, and widespread use of, Bank On certified accounts. This project was a joint effort between The Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund, The Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, and four financial institutions with products meeting the Bank On National Account Standards (NAS).

The data collected is “…a major step forward in understanding Bank On account usage through a sample of quantitative data from partner financial institutions. With the help of the first four pilot banks, the importance of trusted, consistent and comparable data to highlight the vibrancy and usefulness of Bank On certified accounts is clear”, according to the report summary.

Most financial institutions are cautious with sharing account information such as account openings, closings, etc. Some are simply unaware or unable to access specific account data. The collected information will be invaluable to our Bank On South Alabama (BOSA) Coalition as we work to increase financial institutions with Bank On certified accounts throughout our eight-county footprint. The ZIP code specific 2017 data and future collected data will allow BOSA to determine the effectiveness of our efforts, and obtain a clear picture of how many NAS certified accounts are opened in our region. To keep anonymity of reporting financial institutions, only ZIP codes with three or more reporting institutions are included in the data.


FREE And Quality TAX PREPARATION… YES, It Is A Reality!

If your 2018 household income is $55,000.00 or less, volunteers with the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program will prepare and electronically file tax returns at no cost – yes, for free!  Taxpayers 60 years and over are eligible for free tax preparation through the Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) program.

United Way of Southwest Alabama (UWSWA) is once again leading the South Alabama Free E-File (SAFE) Coalition to provide opportunities for eligible tax payers to receive free tax preparation.  There are numerous VITA and TCE tax preparation sites located throughout Southwest Alabama. These sites are staffed by volunteers, trained and certified by the IRS, who help taxpayers  determine if they qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and other refundable tax credits.

Last year, the SAFE Coalition filed more than 2,700 tax returns, which resulted in close to $3.3 million returned to the community through tax refunds and tax credits. “Our community volunteers  help you get tax credits you may be eligible for, as well as the maximum refund you’re due,” said Brad Martin, UWSWA’s VITA program director. “Our goal is to help you get it and get it right. This  is money you can save or use to pay off bills, buy that car to get to work or make a down payment on a home. Let us help make your life a little easier.” This tax season, approximately 26 million  working families and individuals will claim the EITC and this tax refund can make up as much as 30% of their annual income.

To learn more about this program, check for a site near you, and get more great financial tips for the month, be sure to check out the complete Bank On South Alabama January 2019 Newsletter!