Eye Opener: Federal benefits payments go paperless
Happy Monday! The well-worn phrase, "Your check is in the mail" may be rendered obsolete by the federal government in the next three years.
The Treasury Department plans to make most Social Security and other federal benefits payments by direct deposit by 2013, it will announce Monday. The decision impacts about 136 million checks sent by the Social Security Administration, Department of Veterans Affairs, Railroad Retirement Board and Office of Personnel Management.
The switch is part of a broader plan to shift away from paper-based payments and transactions that will also require businesses currently using Federal Tax Deposit coupons to move to electronic tax payments. The Treasury also plans to cut the purchase of paper savings bonds through payroll sales. The plan should save taxpayers about $400 million in processing, postage and paper costs in the first five years, the Treasury said.
Americans who enroll on or after March 1, 2011 for benefits payments will receive them by direct deposit or be enrolled in the government's Direct Express Debit MasterCard program if they do not provide bank account information. Beneficiaries currently receiving payments will switch to direct deposit or the debit card by March 1, 2013 after agencies inform them of the changes.
Treasury officials said direct payments remove the risk of people stealing checks out of the mail and ensure that payments get to people uprooted by natural disasters or ill and unable to get to the bank. Previous attempts at mandating direct payments have failed because the government had not established the debit card program for people who do not have bank accounts, said Assistant Treasury Secretary Richard L. Gregg.
"Now we have it, it's a proven card and we think it's a very good alternative for people who don't have bank accounts," Gregg said.
The Obama administration recently also stopped issuing paper pay stubs to some federal employees.
Sound like a good idea? Should it have happened sooner?
Leave your thoughts in the comments section below
• Cabinet and Staff News: Coming soon: Barack Obama vs. John Roberts. Want to know what Obama thinks? Track what he reads. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs says reporters more interested in camera time than asking real questions. Defense Secretary Robert Gates says his memo wasn't about sounding a nuclear alarm. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano in her own words. White House aides Pete Rouse, Nancy-Ann DeParle and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius tasked with implementing the massive health-care reform law. Meet three Treasury Department and National Economic Council deputies charged with negotiating financial regulatory reform. Senate Republicans grill Court of Appeals nominee Goodwin Liu. Newer Supreme Court nominees trigger fewer surprises while critics might target Elena Kagan's stance on military recruitment and Diane P. Wood's stance on abortion. A Q&A with National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis at the start of National Park Week.
U.S. FEDERAL RESERVE:
• The Supreme Court has a vacancy. The Federal Reserve has three. Anyone notice?: Nobody has breathlessly speculated about dark-horse candidates. Nobody has put the chairman and ranking member of the Senate banking committee on "Meet the Press" to debate prospective Fed nominees.
• Low-tech Skilcraft pens endure in a high-tech world:
For more than 40 years, standard black pens have cluttered the desks of thousands of federal employees, yet few have realized that this government-issue pen has a history to rival that of any monument.
• Congress repays furloughed DOT workers: Last week's Senate vote to extend jobless benefits also provided compensation for the almost 2,000 Transportation Department workers furloughed last month amid disagreements about how to pay for the bill.
• Obama launches America's Great Outdoors conservation initiative: The president hopes to form coalitions with state and local governments and the private sector; encouraging outdoor recreation by Americans; connecting wildlife migration corridors; and encouraging the sustainable use of private land.
MINE SAFETY AND HEALTH ADMINISTRATION:
• Independent team will review MSHA's record of W.Va. mine explosion: The Labor Department will establish an independent team of safety experts to evaluate the agency's internal review of the explosion at a West Virginia coal mine.
• Disaster calls attention to revolving door between industry, government: More than 200 former congressional staff members, federal regulators and lawmakers are employed by the mining industry as lobbyists, consultants or senior executives, including dozens who work for coal companies with the worst safety records in the nation.
SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION:
• Report: SEC suspected R. Allen Stanford of Ponzi scheme 12 years earlier: The agency's inspector general said that top officials in the agency's Fort Worth office favored pursuing as many simple cases as possible rather than taking on more challenging ones like that presented by Stanford.
| April 19, 2010; 6:00 AM ET
Categories: Agencies and Departments, Eye Opener
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