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City marks anniversary of resident ID program

Resource type: News

New Haven Register |

Original Source By Mary E. O’Leary, Register Topics Editor NEW HAVEN – The city celebrated the one-year anniversary of the Elm City Resident Card program Thursday by announcing several additional features that will be introduced in a pilot program this fall. Kica Matos, the city’s community services administrator, said as part of its mission to improve access to financial services for the underserved in the city, it will test out a program offered by S.F. Global, a company run by a professor from the University of California at Los Angeles. Matos said with the use of the new technology, cardholders can have paychecks deposited directly to the card, which can then be used for purchases and to pay bills. Raul Hinojosa-Ojeda, a professor of economics and international development, said immigrants in the city can also use the cards in conjunction with a cell phone to remit funds to their home towns at a much lower rate than now charged by banks and Western Union. The Elm City Resident Card provides residents with a way to access the beach, golf course, recycling center and city libraries, while also serving as a piece of identification, particularly for the city’s estimated 15,000 illegal immigrants. Hinojosa-Ojeda said several other cities are considering issuing ID cards, and he credited New Haven with starting a national movement. The professor said a number of associations across the country, for a total of 50,000 individuals, use the “virtual bank” technology offered by his company, and said it also is popular in sections of Mexico. Globally, he said, the technology is most highly developed in the Philippines and Africa. “The use of cell phones for remittances and banking, the number one place in the world is Kenya and the Philippines. This is just being introduced in the United States,” Hinojosa-Ojeda said. The professor said there are 40 million people in the U.S. without bank accounts – close to 48 percent of African Americans and almost 30 percent of Latinos. “This is not a top priority for banking institutions,” he said. “This is going to allow them to have banking services without necessarily having to go through the traditional banking route.” One of the main purposes of the resident card was to help illegal immigrants open bank accounts, as some officials say they are easy targets for robberies because they keep all their cash on hand. Four local banks now accept the card as a secondary form of identification to allow illegal immigrants to open accounts. Mayor John DeStefano Jr. Thursday said further legal review of banking rules would seem to indicate that the card can be used as a primary identification to open an account at a new community development bank currently seeking a state charter. Several officials connected with the proposed bank, which will be called the First Community Bank of New Haven, have been unclear about use of the card at that institution. Matos Thursday also announced that the second year of the ID card program is being funded by three foundations: The Four Freedoms Fund, the J.M. Kaplan Fund and The Atlantic Philanthropies. She said the missing component with the proposed debit and remittance aspects is a savings component, which she will continue to work on.