CAPITOL EVENT UNDERSCORES NEED FOR GREATER ECONOMIC MOBILITY
OCTOBER 18, 2023
Strengthening Financial Well-Being in the Natural State
Capitol Event Underscores Need for Greater Economic Mobility and Amplifies Financial Inclusion Opportunities for Arkansans
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (October 18, 2023) – A diverse and influential group of Arkansas legislators, bankers, business leaders, grantmakers and financial health advocates convened at the Arkansas State Capitol Rotunda to address pressing economic challenges facing the state.
Presented in partnership with Bank On Arkansas+ (BOA+), the Office of Treasurer of State of Arkansas and the Arkansas Financial Education Commission (AFEC), the event unveiled fresh insights and strategies to underscore the importance of assisting Arkansans, especially those who are unbanked and underbanked, in their journey towards financial prosperity.
Despite being home to five Fortune 500 companies and maintaining a high employment rate, Arkansas is grappling with an economic mobility crisis. Newly released statistics reveal that nearly half of Arkansas households, equivalent to 551,925 families or 47% of the state's population, struggle to afford basic necessities, unable to save and build wealth. This marks a noteworthy 6% increase from 2017.
Of Arkansas's 1,176,614 households in 2021:
- 16% earned below the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) - $26,500 for a family of four.
- 31% were Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed Arkansans or ALICE, in households that earned above the FPL but not enough to afford the basics in the communities where they live - $54,948 for a family of four.
- Together, 47% of households in Arkansas were below the ALICE threshold.
- AR has the lowest savings rate in the U.S.– 50th in the nation.
Larry Walther, State of Arkansas Treasurer, kicked off the event and laid the groundwork for the work ahead. “In addition to managing state investments, the State Treasury Office is deeply committed to championing opportunity pathways for all Arkansans. We want to ensure that Arkansans make the most of critical state programs, such as the Arkansas 529 Education Savings Plan, Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) for people with disabilities, and initiatives led by the Arkansas Financial Education Commission (AFEC) and the State Broadband Office focused on digital inclusion and financial education. These efforts are critical to achieving financial stability in Arkansas.”
The event also highlighted positive developments, including the drop in Arkansas' unbanked population to a new low of 3.4% in 2021, down from 7.5% in 2017. The Bank On Arkansas+ program, initiated by the Arkansas chapter of the Asset Funders Network in 2018, plays a pivotal role in ensuring access to safe, affordable banking for all Arkansans through certified Bank On accounts with benefits like no overdraft fees, low monthly minimums, debit cards, and more.
“Bank On Arkansas+ is an initiative to ensure that all Arkansans, especially ALICE families, have access to safe, trusted, and affordable banking,” says Kara Wilkins, Director of Bank On Arkansas+. “Through Bank On, we’ve forged a coalition of financial institutions, nonprofits, and community leaders dedicated to enhancing pathways to economic mobility, including collaborations with AFEC and the Arkansas State Broadband Office, to help increase access to Arkansans seeking financial resources.”
The event's closing remarks emphasized the urgency of action. Speakers called on attendees to partner with the AFEC to support financial wellness and education, join the Bank On Arkansas+ initiative to promote accessible and affordable banking, endorse the state's digital equity plans, and encourage financial institutions to allocate 1% of Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) funds towards digital access and inclusion.
About Bank On Arkansas+
Bank On Arkansas+ is a statewide coalition of Arkansas banks, credit unions and community partners connecting people to safe, affordable, and certified banking accounts. Our members offer services and resources to improve the financial well-being of individuals and families in all 75 Arkansas counties. For more information, visit: www.bankonar.org
About The Arkansas Financial Education Commission
The Arkansas Financial Education Commission operates within the Arkansas State Treasury Office and is dedicated to improving financial literacy and well-being in Arkansas. They provide resources and support for financial education initiatives. For more information, visit www.artreasury.gov/programs-2/arkansas-financial-education-commission/