As concerns about brick and mortar bank branch closures continue to rise among some Ocean County residents, in particular senior citizens, the Ocean County Board of Commissioners passed a resolution asking banking officials to review the practice.
“Many seniors and business owners have voiced their concerns to the Ocean County Office of Senior Services and the Ocean County Department of Consumer Affairs that their local bank branches, which they have patronized for years, are suddenly closed,” said Ocean County Commissioner Joseph H. Vicari, Chairman of Senior Services. “And, bank employees are redirecting them to ‘nearby’ branches which, based on the size of Ocean County, maybe miles away forcing them to drive further distances.
“Our seniors have worked their entire lives and deserve to enjoy their retirement without the added stress of finding and traveling to a bank far from their homes,” said Vicari, who requested the Board’s support for the resolution.
A handful of residents and members of the Ocean County Tourism and Business Development Advisory Council attended the Nov. 17 meeting of the Ocean County Board of Commissioners to voice their concerns about the bank closures and the potential effects on seniors, low-income residents and also businesses.
“Ocean County is home to more than 200,000 senior residents, many of whom are over the age of 85 and often rely on caregivers to assist with their day to day routines, which can also make them more vulnerable to elder fraud,” Vicari said. “When you close a bank branch and take away the knowledgeable tellers that can pick up on something that might not be quite right with a customer, you are removing a layer of security from our elderly population.
“That leaves our seniors more vulnerable to scammers,” he said.
Vicari added that the closures will also force many low to moderate income residents to seek the use of check cashing services which comes with higher fees.
Vicari noted that he understands banks need to move forward with technology and are transitioning their businesses away from in-person service to an online and virtual model.
“And, while this may work for customers accustomed to computers and smart phones, it is more problematic for our senior citizens, who may not be comfortable with the latest technology, those with physical disabilities, and those who have economic hardship,” he said.
Vicari said that the Board of Commissioners is requesting the New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance, the Federal Reserve and the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Comptroller of the Currency review banking practices including closures that have a direct negative impact on banking customers in Ocean County and across the country.
“We don’t want our residents to be disenfranchised,” Vicari said. “They rely on the services provided at brick and mortar sites.”