In New York, where the state Banking Department plans to propose low minimum balance requirements this fall, activists and bankers are trying to influence the process.

The New York State Bankers Association, m testimony at a public hearing last week. asked the Banking Department to gather cost data and come up with a number that would be the maximum amount a. bank could require for an initial deposit and for maintaining a balance.

"The industry isn't suggesting any dollar amounts." said Warren Traiger. a New York-based lawyer and former special counsel to the state bankers association.

"The banks offered to provide as much information as they could, but they weren't going to box themselves in by providing a number." he said. Activists say many of their constituents are cut out of banking services because the fees are too high.

The Brooklyn Wide Interagency Council on the Aging wants to lower the minimum opening balance at each bank to $25. with a minimum balance requirement of $2 before a bank can close an account.

Kathy Meyers. community organizer for the Brooklyn, N.Y.. senior citizens group, said banking legislation passed in January included a section that allows customers to make eight free transactions monthly.

Still. Ms. Movers feels the New York State Banking Department has not done enough to expand banking services for those with low incomes. She said the agency promised to lower the minimum deposit requirements but "it never came to fruition."

-- Howard Kapiloff

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