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Fearing a ‘banking desert,’ Springfield lawmakers ask feds to save Mason Square TD Bank branch – MassLive.com

Impact team
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Fearing a ‘banking desert,’ Springfield lawmakers ask feds to save Mason Square TD Bank branch  MassLive.com

SPRINGFIELD — State Sen. James T. Welch and state Rep. Bud Williams are asking the U.S. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency to intervene and save the Mason Square TD Bank branch.

TD Bank announced last month plans to close its branch at 958 State St. on Jan. 31. TD Bank has said it will continue to have an ATM at the site after the bank itself closes.

The comptroller is the primary regulator of TD Bank, a Canadian company with its U.S. headquarters in New Jersey and extensive interstate operations.

There is a growing realization of the problem of “banking deserts,” or urban and rural areas that lack access to banking services. Public outcry led Westfield Bank to buy a branch in rural Huntington that People’s United Bank planned to close. People’s United, of Connecticut, had earlier bough it as part of its takeover of United Bank.

Williams, D-Springfield, said the community finds the closing of the Mason Square TD Bank unacceptable. The nearest full-service bank branch of any kind is three miles away. Having only an ATM in Mason Square will force many to travel by bus to do their banking.

Rep. Bud Williams represents the 11th Hampden District in the Massachusetts House of Representatives. He represents the city of Springfield. (Frederick Gore Photo)

Welch, D-West Springfield, wrote in a letter to the comptroller that many in Mason Square don’t have good internet access to take advantage of online banking, and older customers may not want to do their business online. Welch fears that more low-income people will be forced to use unsecured and costly prepaid cards for daily transactions and may not be able to cash checks, secure a mortgage or pay bills.

Nearly 30% of the community is below the poverty line, the legislators said.

Williams and Welch said they’ve request the help of U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal, D-Springfield, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, and U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey.

City Councilors Malo Brown and Tracye Whitfield are also working to get TD Bank to reverse course.

A spokesman for the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency said the agency doesn’t comment on specific banks and branches. But in general, the office cannot stop a bank from closing a branch. Any letters or comments the comptroller receives regarding a branch closure go into the official record.

With a written request, the comptroller consults with community leaders in the area affected by the closing and convenes a meeting with regulatory agencies, community leaders and others. The meeting’s purpose is to explore the feasibility of obtaining adequate alternative services for the affected area following the closing of the branch, according to the spokesman.

In a statement, TD Bank said: “We understand that our decision to close the TD Bank store at 958 State Street on January 31 is a change for our State Street customers and Mason Square residents, but they can expect outstanding customer service from TD Bank employees at our other Springfield locations, where we look forward to meeting their banking needs.”

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State Senator James Welch, D-West Springfield.

Source: masslive.com

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