GOVERNOR RENDELL SAYS MOVE TO DEBIT CARDS FROM UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFIT CHECKS WILL SAVE TAXPAYERS $2 MILLION A YEAR SWITCH IMPROVES SECURITY, CONVENIENCE FOR CITIZENS
HARRISBURG – Governor Edward G. Rendell today said Pennsylvania taxpayers will save $2 million a year and workers who are receiving unemployment benefits will get their money faster with the commonwealth’s decision to replace benefit checks with debit cards.
The program will make the benefits process easier for customers and it will eventually save at least $2 million annually thanks to reduced mailing and check-processing costs. The first-year savings is anticipated to be $1 million.
“Even in good economic times, job loss is an unfortunate reality for some workers,” Governor Rendell said. “We are working hard to minimize that unpleasant experience by maximizing the convenience and security of unemployment benefits. Everyone benefits when we deliver government services in the most cost-efficient way possible.”
Beginning today, MasterCard-backed debit cards will be distributed to new unemployment benefit recipients who did not opt for direct deposit.
Debit cards increase security, reduce fraud and provide instant, 24-hour access to cash without surcharges at nearly 2,400 automatic teller machines in Pennsylvania and more than 18,000 ATMs nationwide. The cards can be used like cash for services such as medical appointments and necessities such as groceries and gas.
Debit cards are expected to reduce fraud by eliminating stolen, lost and misdirected checks. Benefit recipients without bank accounts will no longer have to rely on fee-based check cashing services and can obtain account information online through a secure Web site, or a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week toll-free phone number.
People already receiving unemployment benefits by check have the option of continuing to do so through February. Then, checks will no longer be an option. In addition, workers’ compensation benefits paid through the State Workers Insurance Fund will also be offered via debit cards next month but recipients will continue to have checks as an option due to statutory requirements. Direct deposit will continue to be an alternative for all benefit recipients.
The debit card program will be administered by the Department of Labor & Industry in conjunction with ACS, a business process and information technology solutions company that administers financial benefits programs in 16 states, including Pennsylvania. DPW has administered child support benefits via debit cards since 2004, producing a savings of $5 million in mailing costs alone.
The Rendell administration is committed to creating a first-rate public education system, protecting our most vulnerable citizens and continuing economic investment to support our communities and businesses. To find out more about Governor Rendell’s initiatives and to sign up for his weekly newsletter, visit his Web site at: www.governor.state.pa.us.
EDITOR’S NOTE: You can view or download a high resolution image of the UC debit card athttp://www.dli.state.pa.us/landi/lib/landi/press/pa-final-card-front.jpg.