COVID-19

Those without bank accounts face special challenges during a pandemic

David Brancaccio and Rose Conlon Apr 28, 2020
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Mastercard is expanding its program, pledging to get a billion unbanked people and 50 million unbanked very small businesses into the formal financial system within five years. Damien Meyer/AFP/Getty Images
COVID-19

Those without bank accounts face special challenges during a pandemic

David Brancaccio and Rose Conlon Apr 28, 2020
Mastercard is expanding its program, pledging to get a billion unbanked people and 50 million unbanked very small businesses into the formal financial system within five years. Damien Meyer/AFP/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
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More than 84 million Americans were unbanked or underbanked in 2017, according to the latest Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation survey, meaning they either don’t have a relationship with a bank or they rely on alternative financial services like check cashers and payday lenders for everyday banking needs.

The coronavirus pandemic has underscored the challenges of not having access to a bank account, which can complicate everything from buying household essentials online to getting — and cashing — your government stimulus check.

Mastercard has a plan to bring 1 billion people into the digital economy by 2025. The payment technology company also wants to sign up 50 million small and micro businesses for the technology needed to accept digital payments, with a focus on closing the gender gap in the digital economy by reaching 25 million women entrepreneurs.

Michael Froman, vice chairman and president of strategic growth at Mastercard, spoke to “Marketplace Morning Report” host David Brancaccio about the importance of banking access.

“One thing that is sometimes underestimated is how expensive it is to be poor, and the kinds of engagements and transactions that people who are financially vulnerable have to rely on to get access to their money,” Froman said.

Click the audio player above to hear the full interview.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

Are states ready to roll out COVID-19 vaccines?

Claire Hannan, executive director of the nonprofit Association of Immunization Managers, which represents state health officials, said states have been making good progress in their preparations. And we could have several vaccines pretty soon. But states still need more funding, she said. Hannan doesn’t think a lack of additional funding would hold up distribution initially, but it could cause problems down the road. “It’s really worrisome that Congress may not pass funding or that there’s information circulating saying that states don’t need additional funding,” she said.

How is the service industry dealing with the return of coronavirus restrictions?

Without another round of something like the Paycheck Protection Program, which kept a lot of businesses afloat during the pandemic’s early stages, the outlook is bleak for places like restaurants. Some in the San Francisco Bay Area, for example, only got one week of indoor dining back before cases rose and restrictions went back into effect. Restaurant owners are revamping their business models in an effort to survive while waiting to see if they’ll be able to get more aid.

How are hospitals handling the nationwide surge in COVID-19 cases?

As the pandemic surges and more medical professionals themselves are coming down with COVID, nearly 1 in 5 hospitals in the country report having a critical shortage of staff, according to data from the Department of Health and Human Services. One of the knock-on effects of staff shortages is that people who have other medical needs are being asked to wait.

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