Treasury officials are wrapping up a tour around the Southeast to inform communities about the March 1 deadline for all electronic federal benefit payments. Statewide, nearly 162,000 paper checks are sent monthly to seniors and other recipients.
Federal benefit recipients are required to sign up by the deadline to make the switch from paper check to direct deposit or the treasury’s Direct Express prepaid debit card. The Go Direct initiative began in January 2011.
On Thursday, Walt Henderson, Go Direct’s Washington, D.C.-based campaign director, and other officials visited metro Atlanta as part of a series of community visits to spread the word about the switch.
“We’ve been promoting direct deposit for many years because it’s the safest way to receive payments such as Social Security; checks get lost and stolen,” Henderson said. “Another major reason is cost: Treasury checks are far more costly to produce versus direct deposit payments.”
About 3,300 Cobb residents receive paper checks. However, 80,530 have already made the switch to electronic payments, with approximately 96 percent opting for direct deposit payments, according to the U.S. Treasury Department.
Those who make the switch will begin receiving electronic payments in roughly six weeks, Henderson said. Those who fail to sign up by the deadline will receive a more direct reminder about the requirement, he said.
For benefit recipients who may not have a bank account, there is the Direct Express prepaid debit MasterCard option. Payments are electronically loaded onto the card each month. It can be used anywhere MasterCard is accepted, and one free ATM withdrawal is allowed every month. Subsequent withdrawals are 90 cents each. There are no application or monthly fees, Henderson said.
In Georgia, the Go Direct campaign is working with local organizations to help federal benefit recipients learn about the electronic payments, including the Atlanta Regional Commission, Georgia Division of Aging Services Senior Medicare Patrol Program, Center for Financial Independence and Innovation in Decatur, and the Atlanta Housing Authority.
To make the switch to electronic payments, call the U.S. Treasury Department’s call center at (800) 333-1795 or go online to www.godirect.org. Recipients with bank or credit union accounts may also sign up at their bank or credit union.