California shifts unemployment insurance payments to debit cards
The unemployment insurance checks aren't in the mail.
But that doesn't mean that eligible out-of-work Californians don't get benefits.
On Tuesday, the Employment Development Department, the state government agency that runs the unemployment and disability insurance programs, announced that it's completed the process of issuing 1.8 million debit cards to people receiving benefits.
The cards, which can be used to draw cash from Bank of America and some other ATM machines, are more convenient and secure than old-fashioned paper checks, the agency said.
"This unprecedented transition to paperless benefits is one of the largest pre-paid card roll-outs in the country," said Employment Development Department Chief Deputy Director Pam Harris. "It modernizes the purchasing power of our customers and puts them on par with the rest of the buying public."
Since December of 2010, the agency has paid out $3.7 billion in benefits for the disability and unemployment insurance programs.
The agency's debit cards provide recipients and the state with a number of benefits:
- They have no ATM fees, if used carefully.
- Beneficiaries without bank accounts do not have to pay check-cashing fees.
- They can't be lost in the mail or not delivered in the event of natural disasters.
- They can be used for most purchases anywhere that Visa debit cards are accepted.
-- Marc Lifsher
Photo: Unemployed people at the Westminster job center in Orange County. Credit: Jaec Hong/Associated Press