Ameya Pawar.

A banking reform advocate and former Chicago alderman suggests that one way Evanston could help the unbanked is to provide free check cashing service at the Civic Center.

Ameya Pawar, who’s now a lecturer at the University of Chicago’s school of social work as well as a consultant to several progressive non-profit groups, told the city’s Finance and Budget Committee Tuesday night that the check-cashing service could be just one step toward creating a city-owned bank that could finance public options for programs like housing, childcare and broadband services.

Patel offered no detail on what the check cashing service might cost the city.

Under rules set by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, currency exchanges fees in Illinois are capped at 2.25% of the value of checks larger than $100.

The latest Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation survey estimates that 5.4% of residents in the Chicago metro area are unbanked.

How many Evanston residents are unbanked can’t be determined from the FDIC survey, but Pawar suggested that a rough indication could be gained by comparing the number of currency exchanges in different areas.

The IDFPR registry of currency exchanges lists one in Evanston and 142 in the City of Chicago. That suggests that on a per capita basis, the demand for currency exchange services is about four times greater in Chicago than it is here.

Regarding the recent proposal from Ald. Devon Reid (8th) that the city should force local merchants to accept cash payments as an accommodation for the unbanked, Pawar suggested that instead the city might create a digital currency that would give the unbanked access to a credit-card-like payment method.

Reid’s proposal has drawn fire from local business owners and has been referred to two city committees for further review.

Pawar was invited to address the Finance and Budget Committee by Ald. Clare Kelly (1st).

The committee took no immediate action on any of his suggestions.

Ald. Jonathan Nieuwsma (4th) said the committee members needed to take some time to digest the ideas and then council members could “put their heads together and figure out how they want to proceed.”

Nieuwsma suggested that the ideas were beyond the scope of the Finance and Budget Committee and would require citywide discussion.

Ald. Bobby Burns suggested which committees would be relevant would depend on the specific proposals. He suggested he could meet with Kelly and the city manager to discuss “how to advance this.”

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. “Ameya Pawar, who’s now a lecturer at the University of Chicago’s school of social work as well as a consultant to several progressive non-profit groups…”

    There’s your first “RED FLAG” alert right there, lol…!!!

    This, of course, is a hare – brained “idea”, but our city government will no doubt take to it with gusto, spending countless hours bloviating, doing “studies”, etc….

    Gregory Morrow – Evanston 4th Ward resident

  2. Second red flag!!! He s a consultant! We here in Evanston love consultants. Seriously why is he advising Evanston what they should do? He doesn’t live in our city. Oh I guess it’s the word “unbanked” That word is like “unhoused”. It s time to be virtue signaling.

    1. What with all the dough and time Evanston wastes on these outside “consultants”, you would think we live in Hootersville or Dogpatch or Outer Mongolia…

      Gregory Morrow

  3. Instead of Evanston using a consultant so one can get a bank account, let’s just ask a local bank to assist this person get a bank account. We could save a lot of money.

  4. “Pawar suggested that instead the city might create a digital currency“
    Good god. Evanston is just one big dinner bell attracting consultants that can’t wait to come feast on our tax dollars. And the inept city government is very comfortable letting them.

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