California Has a Plan to Restore Trust in Banking

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Tuesday, June 22, 2021

The California State Assembly recently voted to approve a plan to create a state-branded bank account that would be offered to all Californians regardless of income, wealth, race or ethnicity, or immigration status. Dubbed the “BankCal” program, the accounts would come with a debit card, no fees, no overdraft, no minimum balances, direct deposit and other perks. The program would contract with private banks and credit unions to actually hold the deposits and facilitate transactions, but the state would set the terms and serve as the public face for BankCal. Banking industry organizations oppose the bill. They argue the state shouldn’t get into the “very complex business of banking,” even though AB 1177 proposes that the state partner with existing private financial institutions — not exactly “getting into” banking in the purest sense.