BankOn Greater Charlottesville is a program of the Coalition of Economic Opportunity. We work in partnership with the City of Charlottesville, area service providers and financial institutions to offer services to unbanked and underbanked households in the City of Charlottesville, Albemarle County, and surrounding counties.

Coalition of Economic Opportunity’s mission is to foster the development of fair, reasonable, and just financial service products and, in particular, alternatives to the high-interest, short-term, payday and car title loans that are aggressively marketed to low- and moderate-income customers in the greater Charlottesville region. Coalition of Economic Opportunity’s members include leaders from Charlottesville anti-poverty organizations, faith-based organizations, grassroots organizations, the advocacy community, the business community, and other concerned local citizens. Meet our current Board of Directors.

Why Did CEO Come Together?
CEO was founded on the premise that the battle against predatory payday and car title lenders has three primary fronts: first, lobbying and public policy advocacy to ensure that the baseline legal framework meaningfully protects consumers; second, litigation to hold wayward lenders accountable; and third, the creation of loan products that actually give low- and moderate-income communities a viable alternative to the lenders who prey on consumers in crisis.

All three fronts in this battle are absolutely critical. As a coalition, we chose to focus our energies on the third front. We made that choice because we believe that the availability—or, more accurately, unavailability—of alternative loan products in Charlottesville, and indeed elsewhere, represented an underappreciated but crucial element of the problem.

As we looked around our community, we saw predatory lenders, with brightly-lit signs and slogans, on nearly every street corner. What we did not see—and what community members could not readily find—were genuine alternatives. We have set out to change that. We want to make affordable small-dollar loans (meaning loans for under $1,000.00) with reasonable terms available to those in need and to make the launch of this alternative product widely known in the community. That is, by helping to introduce alternatives into the marketplace, we want to go toe-to-toe in Charlottesville with payday and car title lenders.

How Are We Going To Change This State Of Affairs?
CEO is adopting the BankOn Greater Charlottesville program. The “Bank On” movement began in 2006 and has now spread to dozens of U.S. cities, large and small. The Bank On model is a partnership among local government, financial institutions, businesses, and nonprofit organizations to bring “unbanked” and “underbanked” community members into the financial mainstream and to promote financial health for persons with limited incomes.

Being unbanked means not having a bank account at all and exclusively using check cashing outlets and, as the case may be, fringe lenders. Being underbanked means having a bank account but still relying on check cashing outlets and/or fringe lenders such as payday and car title outlets.