Unemployed Get Forced to Pay Debit Card Fees

by Brian Johnson on March 21, 2009

feesAccording to a recent CNN story, state unemployment agencies are making benefits available either immediately through a debit card or after a ten day waiting period through check. These agencies have loaded their debit cards with numerous little fees designed to nickel and dime anyone getting unemployment payments through this method.

If state unemployment agencies offered an immediate turnaround for providing the unemployment benefits regardless of whether the recipient chose the debit card option or the check option, there would be no problem.  Given that these benefits are going out to people who are unemployed, in many of these cases, the choice of waiting 10 days to get a check is really no choice at all.  Bills need to be paid, and food must be bought.  Having already waited for unemployment, once they get their benefits, they need them immediately.

It seems ridiculous to us that these states cannot cut a check in the same time it would take to set up a debit account and issue a card.  The 10 day wait seems, not only arbitrary, but purposefully inefficient.  These states are railroading the unemployed into selecting the debit card option and then charging them fees for basic services like accessing the account over the phone and balance inquiries.  If these agencies really had the welfare of the unemployed in mind, they would find a way to make both options, debit card or check, available immediately upon the dispersal of benefits.

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