Check Cashing Fairness Act Now Illinois Law

Governor’s Signature Cements Consumer Victory Following Months of Advocacy

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 6, 2018

 

PRESS CONTACTS: Brent Adams (c) 773-844-5544 (badams@woodstockinst.org) or Jenna Severson (c) 616-914-2844 (jseverson@woodstockinst.org)

 

CHICAGO, IL – Governor Rauner signed the Check Cashing Fairness Act into law on Friday afternoon, August 3, 2018. The law amends the Illinois Currency Exchange Act, which gives the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) authority to set the maximum rates that currency exchanges can charge for check cashing. Under the Check Cashing Fairness Act, the IDFPR will now be required to also consider the impact on consumers and the disproportionate impact, if any, of the rates on communities of color, older people, and other groups protected under the Illinois Human Rights Act. The bill, SB 2433, passed unanimously in both the Illinois House (101-0) and Illinois Senate (54-0). The amended law will take effect June 1, 2019.

Since 1943, when the Illinois Currency Exchange Act first became law, the factors that IDFPR was required to consider when setting the maximum rates that currency exchanges could charge focused only on the industry. Specifically, the law required IDFPR to consider only check-cashing fees charged by banks and other providers of check-cashing services, the financial performance of currency exchanges, and the industry’s profit.

The passage of this law cements a consumer victory after months of advocacy in opposition to the industry’s February 2017 petition to IDFPR for double-digit increases in the maximum rates that could be charged to cash all types of checks of any size. IDFPR initially approved the industry’s across-the-board rate increases. A coalition of consumers and their advocates, led by Woodstock Institute, Community Organizing and Family Issues, AARP Illinois, Illinois Asset Building Group/Heartland Alliance, and Chicago Urban League, among others, negotiated an agreement with the industry and IDFPR that greatly softened the blow of the rate increase by establishing different sets of rates for different types of checks – a reform the industry had long opposed.

Under this approach, the rates were cut on public assistance checks and the maximum rate for most checks went from 2.25 percent of the check amount to 2.33 percent. The proposed increase sought by the industry would have raised the rate from 2.25 percent to 2.5 percent.  On a $500 check, the new rate amounts to an increase of only 40 cents, as compared to the proposed $1.25 increase. A full list of the new rates, which went into effect July 1, 2018, is available on Woodstock Institute’s website:  http://bit.ly/newILcheckcashingrates.

As part of the agreement on the new rates, the industry and IDFPR agreed to support the Check Cashing Fairness Act.

“Consumers, especially minority consumers, bear the brunt of higher rates for check cashing, but, until now, the State was not required to take consumers into account when setting the maximum rates.” said Brent Adams, Senior Vice President of Policy and Communication for Woodstock and the former head of IDFPR in the Pat Quinn Administration.  “This law corrects a 75 year-long injustice and ensures that the interests of consumers are not ignored.”

“This new law is a victory for the people. It will protect working families from high currency exchange rates. I am proud to be part of the many months of advocacy with consumers and allies that made this win possible,” said State Representative La Shawn Ford, the House sponsor of the Check Cashing Fairness Act.

“This is a service used almost exclusively by those who don’t have access to a bank account for a variety of reasons, and whose income has been virtually stagnant since the recession,” said State Senator Jacqueline Y. Collins, the Senate Sponsor of SB2433 in a Facebook message. “These changes fall the hardest on those with the least. After seeing this pass the Senate without opposition, I’m gratified to see it become law.”

“The new law will help protect my family and my community.  We still have work to do, but this is a great victory,” said a campaign leader Tara Williams, a hard-working mother of four, who has relied on a currency exchange to cash child-support checks to pay for her disabled son’s medication.

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