Arizona is home to more than 550,000 small businesses, each affected in different ways by the novel coronavirus pandemic. The recent surge in COVID-19 cases demonstrates that the virus knows no boundaries about who it affects, when it strikes, and where it ultimately takes us.
For now, we need to pay special attention to underserved and unserved communities – from broadband penetration to access to healthcare and access to stores serving healthy food to banks providing financial services. Communities that do not have proximity to these essential services risk not only being left behind, but also suffering other harms, especially economic ones, during this crisis.
A major concern is the plight of the underbanked and unbanked people in our communities.
1 in 4 Arizona doesn’t have a bank account
According to FDIC Annual Report 2017, nearly one in four Arizona does not have a deposit account at a traditional financial institution. These hard-working, tax-paying people do not have access to their neighborhood banks or choose not to participate in our traditional banking system.
And it’s because of Arizona’s financial services centers that provide payday advance and securities lending services that these people can access cash when they need it.
As many small businesses in our state are closing their doors again due to the pandemic, financial service centers have been deemed essential by the Arizona government.
Securities lending, check cashing are essential
From cashing stimulus checks to adjusting payment terms, the wide range of services we provide are essential to the livelihoods of thousands of families in these underserved and unserved communities. Now more than ever, alongside other employers, our customers come first and our industry is committed to staying open.
Why? Because we provide liquidity to our communities through a variety of services, including check cashing, wire transfer services, and small loan funding, all regulated in accordance with federal laws and state-specific laws that in many cases many cases cap our costs.
Additionally, we adhere to strict transparency and disclosure requirements, which allows us to work with our clients on individualized plans that help them reach a number of purposes with a full understanding of their obligations.
This approach in our competitive and regulated market ensures that my customers, our neighbors, have confidence in strong financial products and services that allow them to make the purchases they choose, whether it’s groceries or daily expenses incurred by their families. There is nothing more important right now than having access to money.
Access to emergency money is now critical
With 4 in 10 Americans unable to meet an emergency expense of $ 400, multisuit lines of financial products and services like ours are needed more than ever.
Our family business has served this community for over two decades, providing neighborhood financial services in good times and bad. What I have learned from owning a neighborhood business is that our clients want a partner in their financial decisions and support for their economic goals.
As one of the most business-friendly and amazing states in which to live, Arizona will be going through this difficult time.
We have suffered the consequences of this pandemic in our neighborhoods and cities, but by working together we can get back on track one day at a time. As a dedicated small business owner, I look forward to playing a small part in this recovery.
Jennifer Robertson is Managing Director of Checkmate, an Arizona-based financial services center, and president of the Financial Service Centers of America. Reach her at [email protected].