PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — As part of a redlining settlement first announced by federal officials last week, Washington Trust Bank has outlined plans to try to better serve communities of color in Rhode Island.
Officials from the R.I. General Treasurer’s office said they will be working with the bank to “help advance housing opportunities and financial equity in majority-minority areas and throughout the state.”
The treasurer’s office said the bank has agreed to:
- Establish a “diverse and inclusive” community advisory board that will meet quarterly
- Expand its current paid advertisements on media outlets in underserved communities and communities of color
- Expand its sponsorship of community and cultural events relevant to communities of color
- Expand their financial literacy program in urban school districts
- Share its Community Credit Needs Assessment with the treasurer’s office, which will give them recommendations on how to benefit underserved populations
- Expand the use and awareness of its homeownership programs
- Support the state’s CollegeBound Saver 529 Plan
Treasurer James Diossa said he would reevaluate his office’s relationship with the bank after the $9 million settlement was announced. His office said he’s agreed to meet with Washington Trust Chairman and CEO Edward Handy III on a quarterly basis to track their progress.
“We have had meaningful and constructive conversations about the important role the state and local banks play in helping Rhode Islanders achieve financial success and home ownership, especially with communities of color,” Diossa said. “At the same time, we emphasized the need for more effective engagement, recommended ways in which the bank could expand their lending and outreach programs into underserved communities, and encouraged a willingness to create new programs.”
“Washington Trust remains committed to ensuring everyone in all Rhode Island communities has equal access to all our financial products and services,” Handy said. “We look forward to our Olneyville branch opening in the next few months and are actively researching locations for another branch in other underserved communities.”
“We will continue to partner with organizations like the treasurer’s office that are making a difference, especially those committed to advancing financial literacy and economic empowerment, supporting access to safe and affordable housing, and providing basic needs and family services,” Handy continued. “We appreciate the input provided by the Treasurer and look forward to continued communication and collaboration.”