There's been an exodus and merger of bank branches across New Jersey for years now, as we've previously reported, but it's hitting Ocean County hard with the nearly 200,000 senior citizens with 93 senior communities.

"We have key banks in those areas, and in the (last) year or so over 24-percent of banks have closed and more are closing continuously," Ocean County Commissioner Joe Vicari tells Townsquare Media News.

Many of the senior citizens prefer a community bank to walk into and take care of their business explains Vicari, who has been pushing for months now to no avail as he said he's received no response from the New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance inquiring why this is happening and asking them to keep some kind of footprint here.

"I wrote a letter to the Commissioner of banking on September 30 -- no reply, I wrote a letter to the Governor," Vicari said. "What I'm looking for is to let the Commissioner of Banking for the state of New Jersey know that the terrible impact it's going to have on us. What they're trying to do is say, 'look, there is banking but you have to do it electronically' -- many of our senior citizens and those in their 70's and 80's do not have wi-fi, they don't have a computer, because of their age their cognizant skills are not good or in decline."

One of the other concerns Commissioner Vicari has and is increasingly hearing more about is senior citizens having difficulty already with banking due to medical concerns.

"Many medical doctors are coming to us and they're saying that for senior citizens that are clinically depressed or have cancer or are diabetic or some chronic diseases and there are 60-percent of the adults that have two or more chronic conditions and they can not use the technology that we have today," Vicari said.

There are many senior citizens as well, Vicari explains, that have or had placed a lot of valuables not just money inside banks for safe keeping, "such as their jewelry, deed for the house, their will in a safety deposit box -- now, they don't have that."

With so many dependent on in-person banking and having that routine, Ocean County Commissioners hope to be able to win that fight with the state and banks to ensure the accustomed services are still there.

For senior citizens especially, these banks are a safety net for their most precious earnings.

"They worked hard all their life with their money and they want to protect it and they want to make sure they can go into a bank and do their banking that's convenient for them, makes accommodations for those that have a disability but most of all, it protects their hard earned money," Vicari said.

It's not an effort with a goal of necessarily opening more banks but keeping the ones that do exist open and trying to prevent any more closures if and where possible.

"We're not asking for more banks, we're asking for them (the New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance) to be sensitive to the needs of our citizens," Vicari said.

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