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(TRENTON) – Legislation Assembly members John Wisniewski, L. Grace Spencer, Jack Conners, Bonnie Watson Coleman and Annette Quijano sponsored to encourage banking institutions to open branches in underserved communities was approved recently by the Assembly.

“Even with today’s focus on savings and sound personal financial management, many residents live in areas with no community bank and no access to professional financial advice,” said Wisniewski (D-Middlesex). “Encouraging banks to open the doors to financial security in traditionally underserved areas is key to giving more residents the tools they need to properly plan for their futures.”

“Residents whose only choices in banking are either branches located far from their homes or a corner check-cashing store really have no choices at all,” said Spencer (D-Essex). “Promoting sound financial practices requires people to have a neighborhood bank they can trust.”

“This is a step toward stronger communities,” said Watson Coleman (D-Mercer). “Encouraging financial institutions to locate new branches in underserved communities can only help bring about positive changes that benefit everyone.”

“Access to financial security should be open to all New Jerseyans,” said Conners (D-Burlington/Camden). “This is a step toward making this smart policy a reality.”

“This is a bill that can benefit all New Jerseyans and businesses,” said Quijano (D-Union). “Encouraging business competition is always a good thing, especially in underserved areas of our state.”

This measure (A-1458) would create a Banking Development District Program within the state Department of Banking and Insurance to help licensed financial institutions locate new branches in underserved communities. To encourage banks to take part in the program, the bill would allow the state Treasurer to deposit public funds in a participating financial institution.

The governing body of a municipality in which a banking development district has been created also would have the option of using the bank as a depository. The legislation mirrors a similar program in New York State.

The bill was approved 75-3 and now goes to the Senate for more consideration.

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