By Robert Reed, Chicago Tribune


If you’re poor and have to write or cash checks, life got tougher this week, thanks to Bank of America and the state of Illinois.

The two entities are out to boost the fees many low-income people pay for using personal and government-backed drafts, including benefit checks.

Bank of America is ending a free customer checking account that doesn’t require a minimum balance. Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration is inching closer to implementing higher check-cashing fees for currency exchanges, which are often the only retail banking option in some neighborhoods.

It’s an outrageous “one-two” punch that’s aimed directly at people who can’t afford fee hikes. These faulty decisions promise to hurt thousands of low-income households and economically disadvantaged groups throughout the Chicago area and the state.

“People who don’t have bank accounts and cash checks at currency exchanges are disproportionately low-income, people of color, people with disabilities, older adults, immigrants, and other vulnerable populations that are least able to pay more,” said Dory Rand, president of the Woodstock Institute, a research and public policy group that tracks retail banking trends, in an email to me.

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