WASHINGTON — Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders is backing a plan to allow the U.S. Postal Service to provide banking services.

The Vermont lawmaker called the proposal “a great idea” in an interview with Fusion published Wednesday. The postal agency’s inspector general raised the prospect last year in a controversial white paper as a way for the USPS to help revive its troubled finances.

“I want to see our post office be reinvigorated. And one of the ways that I think we can help not only the U.S. Postal Service, but help a lot of low-income people—if you are a low-income person, it is, depending upon where you live, very difficult to find normal banking. Banks don’t want you,” Sanders told Fusion. “And what people are forced to do is go to payday lenders who charge outrageously high interest rates. You go to check-cashing places, which rip you off.”

Sanders also alluded to the idea of postal banking in a Wall Street Journal op-ed last year.

During the interview, Sanders was asked if he would also support Wal-Mart Stores receiving a bank charter. But Sanders declined to discuss the idea.

“Right now we’re focusing on the U.S. Postal Service,” Sanders told Fusion.

The idea of uniting financial services with the mail system remains hotly debated on Capitol Hill, though the concept has won the support of prominent lawmakers, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. The banking industry has largely opposed the move and the postal agency itself has been critical of the idea.

“Our core service is delivery, not banking,” an agency spokeswoman said this summer in response to a follow-up report by the inspector general. The report examined the possible benefits of offering scaled-back services, such as expanded remittances and check cashing, that wouldn’t need congressional approval.

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.