We applaud State Senator Michael “Doc” Rhett (D-Marietta) for filing legislation that would establish “banking improvement zones” in areas underserved by financial institutions such as banks and credit unions. Across the state, many communities are banking deserts, lacking access to basic financial services, from depositing checks to applying for loans. In their absence, residents often turn to costly check-cashers and predatory lenders. Under SB 358, local counties or municipalities could apply with the Department of Community Affairs to designate a “banking improvement zone” in their town “for the purpose of encouraging the establishment of branches or representative offices within an area which is under-served by banking services through financial institutions.”

In 2017, Georgia Watch launched the Georgia Consumer Financial Education Project, a statewide initiative to educate consumers to successfully manage basic retail bank accounts as well as connect underserved communities with traditional banking products and services.

Georgia Watch supports SB 358 to establish “banking improvement zones” in areas underserved by traditional banking institutions.

Update: SB 358 passed the Senate on Crossover Day and was favorably reported on by the House Banks & Banking Committee but did not advance to the House floor for a vote.