Walt Henderson, director of the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Go Direct® campaign, discussed with Treasury Notes what Americans need to know about the Friday deadline for electronic federal benefit payments.
1. What changes are being made to how federal benefits are being paid? When will the changes take place?
Friday, March 1, 2013, is the Treasury Department’s deadline for federal benefit recipients to switch to electronic payments. Americans who still receive their monthly Social Security, Veterans Affairs and other federal benefit payments by paper check will need to choose either direct deposit to a bank or credit union account or the Direct Express Debit MasterCard® card.
2. Why is the Treasury Department moving to all-electronic benefit payments?
There are many advantages to switching to electronic payments, not only for people who receive federal benefits, but for American taxpayers as well.
· Electronic payments provide a safer, more convenient and cost-effective way for people to get their federal benefits than paper checks.
· When people get payments electronically, they don't need to visit a financial institution to cash or deposit a check to gain access to their money. This is particularly important to people who are elderly or disabled, or who lack access to transportation.
· This measure also provides significant savings to American taxpayers who will no longer incur the price tag associated with paper checks – a number that would have ballooned as tens of millions of baby boomers begin to retire.
3. How is the Treasury Department spreading the word about the move to all-electronic benefit payments?
For more than two years, Treasury’s Go Direct campaign has worked to inform benefit check recipients of this change to the way federal benefits are paid. The public education campaign includes a website (GoDirect.org), regular media outreach and a presence on Twitter. Hundreds of community organizations throughout the country have partnered with Treasury to spread the word about the safety and convenience of electronic payments. You can also find helpful videos on the Go Direct campaign’s YouTube Channel. Millions of people have moved their payments to direct deposit or the Direct Express® card. As a result, Treasury estimates American taxpayers will save at least $1 billion over the next 10 years.
4. What do federal benefit recipients need to do to make the switch?
As this week’s deadline approaches, Treasury encourages those who haven’t yet made the switch to use one of many easy enrollment options:
· By phone: Call the U.S. Treasury Electronic Payment Solution Center at (800) 333-1795 Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET.
· Visit your financial institution: Banks and credit union staff are ready to help beneficiaries sign up.
· Visit or call the federal agency that provides your benefit.
As with all financial transactions, it’s important to protect your personal financial information to prevent fraud and identity theft. The Treasury Department has prepared this video with tips on how to keep your personal information safe.
5. What will happen if beneficiaries do not switch on or before March 1?
People who are not able to make the switch by the deadline will not forfeit their payment; their check payment will still arrive each month until they choose their preferred electronic payment method. After the deadline, the Treasury Department will contact check recipients individually by mail to help them comply with the law. Federal beneficiaries will be offered a choice of direct deposit, which is the Treasury Department’s preferred payment method for people with bank accounts, or the Direct Express card. Exceptions will be granted in rare circumstances.