Jobless pay millions in unneeded fees, report finds
WASHINGTON — Jobless Americans are paying millions in unnecessary fees to collect unemployment benefits because of state policies encouraging them to get the money through bank-issued payment cards, according to a report from a consumer group.
People are using the fee-heavy cards instead of getting their payments deposited directly to their bank accounts. That's because states issue bank cards automatically, require complicated paperwork or phone calls to set up direct deposit and fail to explain the card fees, according to a report issued on Tuesday by the National Consumer Law Center, a nonprofit group that seeks to protect low-income Americans from unfair financial-services products. An early copy of the report was obtained by The Associated Press.
Until the past decade, states distributed unemployment compensation by mailing out paper checks. Some allowed direct deposit. The system worked well for people who had bank accounts and could deposit the check without paying a fee.
It cost states millions of dollars each year to print and mail the checks.
Banks including JPMorgan Chase & Co., U.S. Bancorp and Bank of America Corp. seized on government payments as a business opportunity. They pitched card programs to states as a win-win: States would save millions in overhead costs because the cards would be issued for free. And people without bank accounts would avoid the big fees charged by storefront check cashers.
However, most of the people being hit with fees have bank accounts. The bank-state partnerships effectively shifted the cost of distributing payments from governments to individuals. The money needed to cover those costs is deducted from people's unemployment benefits in the form of fees.
Consumer advocates like NCLC are focused on ensuring access to the direct-deposit option so that people can avoid the card fees.
The trouble, the new report says, is that many states make it difficult for people to sign up for direct deposit. The rate of people using direct deposit ranges from a national high of 82 percent in Minnesota to a low of 16 percent in Arizona, the report says.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Hitchhiking robot’s journey west cut short in Philly
- Obama orders steeper emission cuts from power plants
- Who wins, who loses under stricter power plant limits
- 2 women advance to final phase of Army Ranger training
- State Department accuses top Clinton aide of violations
- West Virginia on pace to issue record number of concealed-carry permits
- Global lion population falling primarily because of loss of habitat, experts say
- Phoenix man accused of beheading wife, dogs jailed on $2M bail
- Veterans notified of info breach in South Dakota
- Democrats see ‘firewall’ preserving Iran nuclear deal
- CDC: 1 in 5 American adults live with a disability