Credit unions are a good alternative to big banks and are owned by their members, rather than private shareholders. As a result, they are focused on providing the best services to their customers, rather than maximizing profits for distant shareholders. Credit unions are accountable to their depositors and not the general public.
On the other hand, public banks are owned by governments and are accountable to elected representatives. They support credit unions and community banks by making joint participation loans, providing them with credit, purchasing their mortgages, and cooperating in other ways that make more capital available to them to offer low-cost consumer services. For example, North Dakota, which has a state-owned public bank, has more credit unions and community banks per capita than any other state.
Unlike credit unions, public banks are not restricted by rules governing credit unions, which enables them to access capital at lower rates and with fewer restrictions on their lending. States and municipalities have large revenue streams and reserves that can be invested most efficiently by public banks in affordable housing, climate-resilient infrastructure, and support for small and medium-sized, locally-owned businesses.