As of March 1 it becomes law that all U.S. Treasury benefits are to be electronic payments. These electronic payments may be made by either direct deposit into an individual’s existing bank account or be put on a person’s Direct Express debit card.
Walt Henderson, Director, Electronic Fund Transfer (EFT) Strategy Division, U.S. Department of Treasury, Financial Management Service, said that the government’s Go Direct program is designed to help make it easier for individuals to make the switch from paper to electronic U.S. Treasury benefit payments.
“Recipients of U.S. Treasury benefits can make the switch by calling our toll free number, 1-800-333-1795, by going online to our website at www.godirect.org or by applying through their own bank or credit union,” Henderson said.
All U.S. Treasury benefits will be affected by this March 1st. deadline, including Social Security, Veterans Affairs, Railroad Retirement, Office of Personnel and Department of Labor (Black Lung).
In Aug. 2012, 91 percent of Treasury benefits were reported to be delivered electronically, since then, the number of people using electronic delivery has increased.
In January 2010, 11 million paper checks were being delivered, in August 2012 that number was 6 million, we are now down to 4.7 million paper checks that are still being issued, ” Henderson said. “Currently 93 percent of federal benefits are delivered electronically.”
Of those 4.7 million paper checks, 130,000 of them are still being delivered to Georgia residents.
“Georgia is the 10th worse state in changing over to electronic payments. California is the worse, probably due to their large population, with North Dakota being the best with a 94 percent receiving their benefits electronically,” Henderson said.
Henderson stated procrastination as the main reason people have not yet signed up for electronic payment services. Besides just putting it off, he also said that some people have the misconception that they must have a computer and go online to have electronic deposits. Finally, he said that some people still do not think electronic payments are secure.
“We encourage people to either have their questions answered by calling our toll free number or to access our website where all of the myths and misconceptions of the program are addressed,” Henderson said.
On the www.godirect.org website information concerning all aspects of the program are addressed. A large countdown display is featured on the site showing the number of days, hours, minutes and even seconds that you have left to comply with the March 1st deadline. Instructions for changing from the paper checks to electronic payments are given along with the benefits and the use of the Direct Deposit debit card.
The Direct Deposit debit card option may be used by anyone but is usually for individuals who do not have a bank account. There is no application or monthly fee for the card and users are not charged for their first monthly withdrawal from the card. The card may be used to pay bills and to make purchases at local stores, it is also possible to get cash back at the time of the purchases. Benefits for all electronic U.S. Treasury deposits will be available the morning of the regular payment date.
“According to a recent survey, 95 percent of Direct Deposit card holders are satisfied with the service,” Henderson said.
Issuing each paper check costs the government one dollar, while the electronic transaction costs only ten cents. It is estimated that electronic payments will save the government 120 million dollars a year, with a billion dollar savings over a 10-year period.
Although individuals who are 90 years old, or older, are exempt from this new law, Henderson advises that electronic deposit of benefits is still easier for either these individuals or their caregivers.
Most individuals at LaGrange’s Active Life are already receiving their U.S. Treasury benefits electronically.
Pat Wyche, Eathell Shelnutt and Dovie Bailey commented on Social Security electronic transfers.
“When my husband and I took Social Security, they suggested at that time that we should use direct deposit, that was over ten years ago,” Wyche said. “We did and it was a good idea.”
“Several years ago, one of my Social Security checks was stolen right from my mailbox,” Shelnutt said. “Since then I have been using direct deposit .”
“I already have direct deposit and most everyone I know is using it too,” Bailey said. “It is really good to have.”
Further information and/or assistance for signing up for electronic U.S. Treasury benefits are available at www.godirect.org or by calling 1-800-333-1795.