"Cash back fast!” their front windows promise. “Loans up to $255!” “C’mon in and get happy!"
Such pitches are an ordinary part of life in San Francisco’s Mission District, home to the city’s highest concentration of check-cashing outlets and pay day lenders. A single corner of Mission Street boasts two side-by-side outlets, nestled amid the laundromats and carnicerias that serve neighborhood residents, more than half of whom don’t hold traditional bank accounts.
"Bank on San Francisco is a pragmatic solution to a widespread problem, and a great example of the power of public-private partnerships."
– Amy Dominguez-Arms, director of the Irvine
Foundation’s California Perspectives program
Every year, these outlets siphon off millions of dollars from a community that can ill afford to lose it. They charge up to $40 just to cash a paycheck and up to 450 percent in interest rates on short term loans. For Mission District residents, many of them working two to three jobs just to get by, that can add up to hundreds or even thousands of dollars a year – for a service that most consumers get for free.
"In our city, the price you pay for using check cashers is so high, it really impacts the household. When you open a bank account, you benefit immediately, from day one," explains José Cisneros, San Francisco’s City Treasurer. Yet more than one in five San Francisco residents are "unbanked," including half of the city's African-American and Latino population.
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