Check Cashing Fairness Act Passes Illinois House

Bill Now Goes to Governor’s Desk for Signature

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 18, 2018

 

PRESS CONTACTS: Brent Adams (c) 773-844-5544 (badams@woodstockinst.org) or Jenna Severson (c) 616-914-2844 (jseverson@woodstockinst.org)

 

CHICAGO, IL – By a unanimous vote (101-0), the Check Cashing Fairness Act passed the State House today.  After having already passed the State Senate (54-0) by a unanimous margin, the bill will now be sent to the Governor’s desk for his signature.  While the Governor’s Office has not taken a position on the bill, the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR), which reports to the Governor, supports it.  Once the bill reaches his desk, the Governor has 60 days to sign it or veto it.

The Check Cashing Fairness Act would add two factors to the criteria used by IDFPR when setting the maximum rates that currency exchanges may charge to cash a check.  The two new factors would be (1) the impact of the new rates on consumers, and (2) whether the new rates would disproportionately impact people of color, older adults, or other specific populations that are protected under the Illinois Human Rights Act.  Research shows that black households, for example, are much more likely than white households to not have bank accounts.  Correspondingly, black households are much more likely to rely on currency exchanges for check-cashing services.  Including the impact on consumers in the rate-making process is expected to help protect consumers from unduly burdensome increases.  Under current law, IDFPR is not required to consider consumers when setting check-cashing rates.  Rather, the current factors focus on the industry, such as, whether the industry is earning a “reasonable profit.”

When IDFPR proposed, at the industry’s request, double-digit increases in the maximum rates in June of last year, consumers and their advocates sprang into action.  Months of advocacy and negotiation were led by Woodstock Institute, Community Organizing and Family Issues, AARP Illinois, Illinois Asset Building Group/Heartland Alliance, and Chicago Urban League, among others.  As part of the negotiated agreement, the industry and IDFPR conceded to a different set of rates that provides relief to people on public assistance and increases maximum rates on most checks by a relatively small amount: from 2.25 percent of the check amount to 2.33 percent.  The proposed increase would have raised the rate from 2.25 percent to 2.5 percent.  On a $500 check, this amounts to an increase of only 40 cents, as compared to the proposed $1.25 increase.  As part of the agreement, the industry and IDFPR also agreed to support the bill that passed today.

“The passage of this bill comes from many months of hard work.  When this bill becomes law, families will have more protections from high currency exchange rates.  I am proud to be partners with Woodstock Institute in standing up for working families in Illinois,” said State Representative La Shawn Ford, the House sponsor of the Check Cashing Fairness Act.

“When this campaign began, few, including many of my colleagues, thought we could stop or even slow down the industry-backed rate increase.  The advocates succeeded in bringing the power of the people to bear on this issue.  They were a force to be reckoned with!” said State Senator Jacqueline Y. Collins, the Senate sponsor of the Check Cashing Fairness Act.

 

“Because of the way the law is currently written, the only way that we could ensure that IDFPR took consumers into account was by launching a campaign to persuade lawmakers to put the brakes on the IDFPR proposal,” said Brent Adams, Senior Vice President of Policy and Communication for Woodstock and the former head of IDFPR. “Future administrations will have a more balanced set of facts to consider in setting the rates.”

 

“The new law will help protect my family and my community.  We still have work to do, but this is a great victory,” said a campaign leader Tara Williams, a hard-working mother of four, who has relied on the currency exchange to cash child-support checks to pay for her disabled son’s medication.

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