The House Financial Services Subcommittee Task Force on Financial Technology held a remote hearing entitled “Inclusive Banking During a Pandemic/Stimulus Payment Delivery.” The June 11 hearing included testimony from Mehrsa Baradaran, professor of law at the University of California, Irvine School of Law; Chris Giancarlo, senior counsel at Willkie Farr & Gallagher and former chairman of the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission; Jodie Kelley, CEO of the Electronic Transactions Association; and Morgan Ricks, professor of law at the Vanderbilt University Law School. After their testimonies, the speakers answered questions concerning inclusive digital banking interventions for Economic Impact Payment (EIP) delivery, and gave recommendations to distribute EIPs more efficiently in the future.
The Committee Memorandum states that 30-35 million EIPs have yet to be issued. EIPs have been most quickly and widely allocated through direct deposit, a method unavailable to the over 25% of the American population who are “unbanked” or “underbanked.” This population either does not have access to a bank account or may have a checking or savings account but uses financial services outside the banking system, such as payday loan companies. Many stimulus payments were also distributed by mailing checks, a method particularly problematic for people experiencing homelessness who have no home address to receive the check and are likely unbanked. In response to these issues, Treasury began distributing EIPs on prepaid debit cards, but “some recipients of the EIP Prepaid card [were] unfamiliar with how prepaid cards work . . . thought the card was fraudulent or had never used a prepaid card before.”
House Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) introduced in late March the “Faster Stimulus Payments and FedAccounts Act” (H.R.6321), a bill proposing to provide monthly stimulus payments to the unbanked through creation of a new, basic bank account backed by the Federal Reserve and facilitated by the U.S. Postal Service called “FedAccounts.” The idea of a FedAccount builds upon research by Professor Baradaran, which was expanded upon by Professor Ricks and others. The professors’ testimonies provided an in-depth explanation of this policy and argued that expanding accessibility to the Federal Reserve through the U.S. Postal Service would greatly expand access to digital currency while circumventing issues with internet access. The initiative was met with bipartisan enthusiasm during the hearing.
Watch a recording of the hearing at: https://tinyurl.com/y7n29ba2
Read a copy of the “Fast Stimulus Payments and FedAccounts Act” at: https://tinyurl.com/yd58ezas
Read witness testimonies at: https://tinyurl.com/ydf2nlf7
Learn more about ways to help people experiencing homelessness access Economic Impact Payments at: https://tinyurl.com/ycs392gq