Community Financial Access Pilot

Community Financial Access Pilot - Summary

The Community Financial Access Pilot (CFAP) began in 2008 and was implemented through December 2009 by the U.S. Department of the Treasury to increase access to financial services and financial education among low- and moderate-income families and individuals, especially individuals who have no bank or credit union account. Through the Treasury’s Office of Financial Education (now the Office of Financial Education and Financial Access), eight locations, representing a diverse set of urban, suburban, metropolitan, and rural areas of the U.S., were selected for a pilot project designed to enhance local capacity to build collaboratives that would increase the availability and use of mainstream financial services and financial education for the low- and moderate-income (LMI) population. The CFAP communities were: Fresno, California, Jacksonville, Florida, Eastern Region of Kentucky, Delta Region of Mississippi, St. Louis Metropolitan Area, Missouri/Illinois, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Brownsville, Texas and Cowlitz County, Washington.

This report summarizes the pilots during the 2008-2009 pilot period in order to provide guidance to local organizations wishing to replicate similar programs in their communities. Communities may use the examples in this report and the reference materials in the Appendix, as a resource to build or enhance similar initiatives that are tailored to use local resources to meet local needs. Additionally, the lessons learned from the CFAP inform the Treasury’s policies relating to ensuring a fair and inclusive financial system in the U.S., including the development of the Bank On USA initiative, which, if funded in Fiscal Year 2011, will provide support to community-based financial access and financial education initiatives, among other activities.

The report contains an executive summary, an overview of the Community Financial Access Pilots and other initiatives to expand financial access, summaries of each of the eight pilots, conclusions regarding the pilot findings, and an appendix which contains a toolkit of materials which can be used by other communities. 

Community Financial Access Pilot Report 


Ensuring that all Americans who wish to participate in the nation's strong and diverse financial system has long been a topic of importance to the Department of the Treasury. At a minimum, approximately 10 million households (9%) currently lack a bank or credit union account. [1] These households are more likely to: pay more for financial services such as check cashing and bill payment; be at higher risk of theft and robbery; have a harder time building assets such as buying a home, saving for education, or obtaining a small business loan; have a harder time handling financial emergencies; and do not fully benefit from local and national economies. In addition, it is estimated that 30 to 50 million other Americans have a traditional account, but use alternative financial service providers, such as check cashers and money wiring services, often incurring significantly higher costs and greater risk, than using financial products and services from a financial institution. [2]


The goal of the Community Financial Access Pilot is to increase access to financial services and financial education for low- and moderate-income people. The U.S. Department of Treasury will implement best practices learned from Treasury’s First Accounts Program and the Financial Literacy and Education Commission’s Regional Conferences on Reaching the Unbanked. Community Consultants (Treasury staff) will provide assistance to approximately six to eight demonstration sites to implement community initiatives. At the conclusion of the pilot Treasury will release to the public information on effective practices.  
  • In each pilot site, the Community Consultants will assess community needs, facilitate partnerships, work with local organizations to develop appropriate financial products, and implement financial education services.
  • The pilot is expected to be implemented through the end of 2009.
  • The Office of Financial Education consulted with other federal agencies, non-profit organizations, and financial institutions, to identify locations for the pilot. The selected sites will include urban, suburban, and rural communities with low- and moderate-income populations needing financial education and financial access.
  • The pilot is designed to build local capacity to continue the initiative even after the end of the pilot.


Community Financial Access Pilot - Locations

The Office of Financial Education has currently identified the following eight communities to participate in the CFAP:


National Partners

In addition to partners at each local pilot, the CFAP welcomes National Partners, which agree to participate in one or more CFAP sites and share lessons learned from the CFAP nationally, in order to disseminate and promote effective approaches to promoting financial access and financial education. The following are National Partners as of July 15, 2009.

  • Bank of the West
  • Citigroup, Inc., Office of Financial Education
  • National League of Cities, Institute for Youth, Education and Families
  • Office of the Comptroller of the Currency
  • PNC Community Development Banking
  • Wachovia Corporation
  • Regions Financial Corporation


Information on the Unbanked

Why expand financial access?

Nearly 10 million households in the United States are unbanked. These individuals and families do not have an account with a bank, thrift or credit union. Consequently, they are not able to fully participate in the local and national economies and are susceptible to:

  • pay more for financial services such as check cashing and bill payment;
  • theft and robbery due to keeping or carrying cash;
  • face challenges saving for emergencies or for the future; and
  • struggle to build a positive credit history and access affordable credit for short- and long-term needs.
  • In addition, approximately 50 million other Americans that have an account may continue to pay high interest and fees to alternative financial service providers, such as check cashers and money transfer services, rather than access the financial products and services from their financial institutions. [3]

Who is unbanked?

Unbanked families are disproportionately:

  • Low-income individuals (nearly 30% of the lowest income families are unbanked);
  • Minorities, particularly Blacks and Hispanics (more than 20% of these groups are unbanked);
  • Young adults (13% of families headed by adults under age 35 are unbanked); and
  • Individuals who previously had an account that either they or the financial institution closed.

Why are people unbanked?

There are many reasons why people are unbanked, but they may be broadly summarized as follows:

  • Consumers may lack trust in the stability of financial institutions, lack knowledge and experience in using the financial system, and may perceive the costs of managing an account to outweigh the benefits.
  • Financial Institutions may not provide products that meet the needs of low-wealth, low-income consumers or they may not market to and/or provide an environment that welcomes this market segment.

What can be done to reach the unbanked?

The Treasury Department has learned from research and outreach that there are a number of effective approaches to reach unbanked people and provide access to appropriate financial services. These are summarized as:

  • financial products that are convenient, transparent and low-cost to the consumer;
  • products and services that offer to the financial institution the possibility of a long-term, profitable customer relationship;
  • financial education and counseling on budgeting, account management, and other topics;
  • outreach to low-income consumers through trusted community organizations; and
  • incentives, such as savings match or access to reduced-rate credit.

For more information about the CFAP, contact Louisa Quittman, Director, Community Programs at


Additional Resources on Financial Access



Except as indicated, source of data is:

[1] Federal Reserve 2004 Survey of Consumer Finances.  Recent Changes in U.S. Family Finances: Evidence from the 2001 and 2004 Survey of Consumer Finances, Brian K. Bucks, Arthur B. Kennickell, and Kevin B. Moore, Federal Reserve Bulletin, vol. 92 (February 2006), pp. A1-A38.

[2] A Financial Services Survey of Low- and Moderate-Income Households, Ellen Seidman, Moez Hababou, Jennifer Kramer, Center for Financial Services Innovation (July 2005).

[3] A Financial Services Survey of Low- and Moderate-Income Households, Ellen Seidman, Moez Hababou, Jennifer Kramer, Center for Financial Services Innovation (July 2005).