Do you know the Valley family? It's a family of four in our wonderful community - a hard-working brood that earns less than $24,000 per year, which is the federal poverty line.
The Valley family, like 43 percent of American families earning less than $30,000 annually, is unbanked or underbanked. This means they either don't have a checking or savings account or have one but still use costly alternative financial services.
Just like the average unbanked family, the Valleys spend 10 percent of their net income on alternative financial services. That's because they don't have a stable, long-term relationship with a bank or credit union. In turn, they lack employment opportunities, have difficulty managing finances and paying bills, and struggle to build savings.
The Valleys have few options. They don't qualify for an account with a traditional financial institution, but they can ill afford to keep using alternative services that weren't designed for the long term.
They are spinning in a cycle of poverty that may spiral further out of control for many years.
There is hope, though. Many groups in the community are adamant about providing opportunities to attain the financial stability that many people desperately need. Several of these groups including United Way of Treasure Valley, 10 financial institutions and the Idaho Department of Finance are working together to foster healthy financial habits for years to come.
Through Bank On Treasure Valley, a new program, the Valleys will receive free financial education. After completing five 90-minute class sessions, they can choose an entry-level checking account at one of Bank On's 10 partner financial institutions.
This makes a huge impact on a person's life. Imagine being able to reclaim 10 percent of your paycheck - using it to help your family build savings, pay bills, seek further education and improve your overall financial situation.
If a Valley family you know needs an account to emerge from the poverty cycle, please direct them to BankOnIdaho.org.
With financial education, a new account and hard work, we're confident many of our neighbors will maximize this opportunity and forge long-term financial stability.
Jennifer Reynolds is the regional district manager for U.S. Bank and a board member at United Way of Treasure Valley.