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California is putting disability benefits on debit cards instead of checks

February 7, 2011 |  3:14 pm

Checks are no longer in the mail for about 10,000 Californians a day who are getting new state-issued Visa debit cards to access disability benefits.

The California Employment Development Department expects to have the cards in the hands of 400,000 people by March. The cards will give recipients faster, more secure access to their cash at Bank of America network ATMs.

The switch enables recipients to have their benefits directly deposited into bank accounts and to avoid check-cashing fees. There also are no fees charged for using network ATMs and for making up to two transactions weekly with out-of-network machines.

"Once we get all of our disability and paid-family-leave insurance customers switched over to the more convenient debit cards, we will work to transition the much larger unemployment insurance program in June," EDD Chief Deputy Director Pam Harris said.

Eventually, the state will stop issuing checks for all the the employment-related programs, Harris said.

The new program is being put into place at no cost to the state: Bank of America is covering its costs by charging fees to participating merchants that honor the new California cards.

The state expects to save about $4 million annually in printing, paper and postage costs once the debit card program if fully operational.

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-- Marc Lifsher

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