Texas makes progress with federal benefit requirement

Wednesday, February 13, 2013 - 11:33pm

The clock is ticking for people age 65 or older to switch their federal benefits, such as social security and unemployment, from paper checks to an electronic payment, however, most Texans have already made the switch.

Beginning March 1, 2013, all paper checks for federal benefits must be replaced with either Direct Deposit via ACH or a Direct Express prepaid card. While 93% of Texans have switched to electronic payments, there were still nearly 300,000 federal benefit checks sent in January, ranking Texas third in the U.S. in total check volume according to the U.S. Department of Treasury.  This number is down from 440,000 reported during the time period in 2012.

Additionally, the Department of the Treasury is reporting that among those Texans who have made the switch away from checks in the past six months, 58% of those selected to receive their benefits via a Direct Express prepaid card over Direct Deposit.

To help the remaining seven percent of Texans move towards electronic payments, Dallas-based SWACHA, one of the largest not-for-profit regional electronic payments associations in the country, has partnered with the U.S. Department of the Treasury through the Go Direct campaign to help raise awareness of the initiative to go electronic.

"This transition away from paper checks to electronic payments is a winning combination for both the recipients of these benefits and the taxpayer," said Dennis Simmons, AAP, president and CEO of SWACHA. "Everyone who receives federal payments will benefit from a faster, more secure network, and the switch will save an estimated $120 million per year in printing and shipping costs. Recipients need to remember that it is not optional to receive these payments electronically, it is required by law.

"The job of the financial industry now becomes getting the word out, so the few who have still not made the switch can get in before the deadline. Texans have overwhelmingly embraced this change; we just need to push hard to the finish line," he added.

For more information about the Go Direct Campaign or to switch your federal benefit payments to Direct Deposit or Direct Express prepaid card, visit www.godirect.org

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