CalAccount Blue Ribbon Commission hears from
communities from across the state.

An image of a person speaking in front of a crowd. Organized labor leaders and consumer financial advocates from across the state voiced their support for equitable banking services and systemic reforms this week during a series of public hearings put on by the CalAccount Blue Ribbon Commission. 

The public hearings, held in Fresno, Oakland and Los Angeles, provided a platform for organizers and advocates to voice their support for CalAccount — an initiative passed in 2021 that would establish the nation’s first zero-fee, zero-penalty public banking option. Comprised of financial access experts, community members, and representatives from the Treasurer’s office and the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation, the CalAccount Blue Ribbon Commission was formed to conduct an analysis and the best way to implement the CalAccount program. Members of the Commission include Rise Economy Chief Executive Officer Paulina Gonzalez-Brito, Chair and California State Treasurer Fiona Ma, Commissioner of the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation Clothilde V. Hewlett, Assembly appointees Fr. Gregory Boyle, S.J. and Miguel Santana, Senate appointee Frank Robinson, and Governor appointees James Hicken, Byron Lopez and Manisha Padi.

At the Fresno hearing, Project Director at the Fresno Native American and Business Development Center David Mendoza, pledged support for the initiative. An image of a person speaking in front of a crowd.

“Thank you for your efforts to bring fair and equitable banking to those who need it most,” Mendoza said. “I wholeheartedly endorse your program and pledge my support.”

Wesley Alexander, CEO of CoBiz Richmond, a Rise Economy member organization based in Contra Costa County, spoke to the myriad roadblocks to financial inclusion consumers, like those in Richmond, face. He also stressed the importance of a free and accessible banking option. 

“There are barriers to banking — we also see food deserts and other barriers — to a thriving financially healthy community,” Alexander said in front of the attendees at Thursday’s Oakland hearing. “I am here to advocate for CalAccount to make sure stakeholders have access to banking services.”

A common thread for several of the speakers at the Oakland hearing was the deep-rooted distrust historically excluded and marginalized communities have of traditional banking institutions.  

“[Traditional banks] are taking money from people who barely have any money. CalAccount will have zero cost and zero penalties. They put people first over profit,” said Norel Knowles, a representative from Rise Economy member organization MyPath.