On Thursday, postal workers in Cleveland had a special delivery for Postmaster General Megan Brennan. Joined by Representative Marcy Kaptur and a number of community allies, the postal workers delivered more than 1,500 petitions to the PMG calling for a postal banking pilot program in the Cleveland area.
Nationwide, approximately 25% of households are either unbanked or underbanked. People in those homes regularly fall victim to predatory payday lenders or cash checking outfits, only to have access to their own money. With more than 35,000 post offices across the country, postal financial services could help narrow the gap between excluded communities and the fully banked.
“We’re trying to get the post offices empowered to offer limited financial services in neighborhoods that have no financial services that are fair right now and we want to do a pilot project in the Cleveland area saying we think this would be a great place for the Postal Service to test the concept,” Kaptur said to WKSU.
Communities in northeast Ohio know all too well the difference between having access to affordable financial services and not. Since the financial crisis in 2007, more than 6,000 bank branches have closed – many of them in working class communities like those found in and around Cleveland. That’s why city councils in Cleveland, Fairview Park, Brook Park and Lakewood have all adopted resolutions asking postal management to make their area among the first in the country to pilot postal financial services.
The Campaign for Postal Banking has demanded that postal management exercise the authority it already has under the law to expand the offering of financial services at post offices. A 2014 report of the Postal Service’s Inspector General found that paycheck cashing, installing ATMs, establishing a bill payment system, and expanded wire transfer systems are all within the Postal Service’s remit.
“The Postal Service can introduce these financial services tomorrow – there’s no need to change the law,” said APWU Local 72 President Daleo Freeman who represents Cleveland postal workers. “Postal workers, government and local community leaders are all united in our call on the Postmaster General to bring postal banking to Cleveland. USPS experiments with new products all of the time.”
Last fall, postal workers and allies in the Bronx delivered a similar petition from their neighbors calling on the PMG to start postal banking pilots there as well. Representative José Serrano and other congressional members from New York joined campaigners then and continue to push on postal management in Washington to implement the pilot programs.