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Economy & Business

Unemployment, Workers Comp Recipients Getting New Cards


Unemployment compensation and workers’ compensation benefit recipients will receive a new provider for prepaid debit cards; the Pennsylvania Treasury will stop making deposits to the previously-used Chase cards on Sept. 30.

“Current J.P. Morgan Chase card holders will receive new cards in the middle of September and then all benefits paid after October 1 will be on the new U.S. Bank issued cards," said Lloyd Ebright, policy analyst with the Pennsylvania Treasury. "Card holders with the J.P. Morgan Chase cards can continue to spend down those benefits even after October 1.”

The Pennsylvania treasury has been paying benefits on debit cards since 2007, according to Ebright. In 2013, they announced the program with J. P. Morgan Chase, but approximately a year later, the company announced they were leaving the prepaid credit card business. The treasury then looked for a new vendor and selected U.S. Bank and others for their quality benefits and low fees.

This change only affects the unemployment and workers’ compensation benefit recipients that elect to have their benefits paid on a prepaid debit card.

In the past years, the program with Chase wasn’t optimized for mobile devices and didn’t have a built-in ATM locator feature, Ebright said. The treasury had to create their own, but it was a separate website.

“What’s unique to this program is it’s all going to be on one mobile application. So cardholders will be able to check their balances, view transactions, do other services, and then also find their nearest fee-free ATM,” said Ebright.

The new program features 3,400 ATMs in Pennsylvania where cardholders would not be charged a withdrawal fee, according to Elbright.

There's an app for that

Cardholders can also download an app for the Android and iPhone optimized to make purchases and pay bills.

The changes also include allowing users to make fee-free purchases at retail establishments. For example, a cardholder going to the grocery store would swipe the card like a debit or credit card and there would be no fee associated with the transaction since it deducts directly from the user’s benefits.

Another difference between the previously used Chase program and the new U.S. Bank one includes four free out-of-network ATM withdrawals per month (Up from two with Chase).

The transition from the Chase program to the U.S. Bank one should be smooth, Ebright said.

“After October 1, all unemployment and workers compensation payments will be made on the new U.S. Bank cards, so we expect that over time the balances on the Chase cards will be spent down to zero and then card holders will begin using the U.S. Bank cards,” he said.

The Chase and U.S. Bank programs are both designed to not allow negative balances, so users won’t have to worry about going below a zero balance when finishing the Chase cards.

Ebright said cardholders will need to set a new PIN number for the new cards, as the Chase PIN will not automatically transfer. Also, those who qualify will not be able to transfer money directly from the Chase account to U.S. Bank, so it’s recommended to run the Chase account down to zero or withdraw money from the account to be used for payments.

Notifications on the program transition were sent in mid-August. Approximately 65,000 unemployment compensation and workers’ compensation claimants are currently using the Chase cards, according to the State Treasury. The department has deposited more than $800 million annually and said the cards reduce taxpayer costs by nearly $1 million.