Big banks rip off millions of low-income depositors with fake accounts or unnecessary fees or mortgage redlining or higher rates . Payday lenders prey on the “unbanked” with loan-shark interest rates they can’t meet.
On the other hand, New Haven now has Samantha Savvidou. Can she come to the rescue?
Savvidou, a social worker fresh off receiving her masters from University of Connecticut, has set up shop as a first-ever “Bank On Fellow” to help the 20 percent of New Haveners who don’t have conventional bank accounts obtain accounts and learn techniques that keep money in their hands.
A team of such “Bank On Fellows” have begun work in spots across the country. The national not-for-profit called Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund set up the program through five state-level. The Connecticut Association for Human Services (CAHS) is its partner for our state, and CAHS hired Savvidou for the two-year gig in New Haven.
Her organization presses banks to meet certain standards for access to “safe and affordable accounts,” such as allowing people to open accounts that require $25 or less up front to open or $10 minimum balances to maintain. Major banks here do often have such accounts available, but they don’t people know about them, Savvidou said during an interview on WNHH FM’s “Dateline New Haven” program.
She said she sees her mission as social work, even if people don’t always think of banking access as a traditional social-work issue. “I feel like I’m serving a greater purpose” by doing community organizing and helping people avoid financial perils and by developing progressive public policy.
Click on the above audio file or the below Facebook Live video to listen to the full interview with Samantha Savvidou on WNHH FM. (Her portion of the Facebook Live video begins at the 18:45 mark