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<p>WASHINGTON-Banking Committee Chairman Paul S. Sarbanes (D-Md.) announced April 25 that the committee would hold hearings concerning the plight of the `unbanked’ and bringing them into the financial mainstream. Approximately 10% of American households do not have a bank account with an insured depository institution. `Unbanked’ individuals, mainly from low-income households, often use high-cost fringe financial service providers to conduct routine transactions, such as check cashing and bill payment. Additionally, the `unbanked’ have difficulty establishing traditional forms of credit, receiving loans, acquiring financial assets, and saving. “The Committee will also examine the role that policy makers, banks, non-profits, and others can and should play in bringing more Americans into the financial mainstream,” Sarbanes said. The Treasury Department’s First Accounts initiative, which provides low-cost accounts for low-income individuals, will come under scrutiny during the hearing, as well as other efforts. Treasury Assistant Secretary for Financial Institutions Sheila Bair; University of Michigan Assistant Professor of Law Michael Barr; Shorebank Executive Vice President Fran Grossman; Bank One Senior Vice President and Managing Director of Community Investment Jaye Morgan Williams; and Woodstock Institute Vice President Marva Williams are scheduled to testify.</p>

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