Yet another way to screw the unemployed

Daylife/Reuters Pictures

If you’re out of work like Steve Lippe, who was laid off from his job as a salesman in January, you know you already have problems. But looking at the fine print that came with his new unemployment debit card, he became livid.

“A $1.50 [fee] here, a $1.50 there,” he said. “Forty cents for a balance inquiry. Fifty cents to have your card denied. Thirty-five cents to have your account accessed by telephone.”

He was quoting fees listed in a brochure that goes out to every unemployed person in Pennsylvania who chooses to receive benefits via debit card. He was given the option when he filed for jobless payments: Wait 10 days for a check or get the card immediately. Like most of the 925,000 state residents who received unemployment benefits in February in Pennsylvania, he chose the debit card and only then, he says, did he learn about the fees.

I was outraged by it,” he told CNN. “I was very noisy about it. I just couldn’t believe it. An outrage is just too weak a word. It’s obscene.”

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 30 states offer direct deposit cards to the unemployed. Many of the nation’s biggest banks have contracts with the individual states. JP Morgan Chase, for instance, has contracts with seven states and has pending deals with two others, according to Chase spokesman John T. Murray.

Perish the thought the bloody banks should give people who are out of work a break. If there’s one area where the leading economic powers in this land excel – it’s inhumanity and greed.

5 thoughts on “Yet another way to screw the unemployed

  1. Tom says:

    So, let me get this right? People think they should be outraged for getting paid to do nothing?? Every state that offers ATM cards for unemployment benefits offers some way of getting those benefits without paying any fees. If people are too lazy or impatient to read the instructions & fine print, that is their problem.. I don’t get you people who complain about everything. First you complain about banks receiving money from the government, then you complain about banks charging fees. It would be nice if everything in life was free, wouldn’t it?? But unfortunately, that’s not the case, so get off your lazy asses, grow up, and quit complaining..

    • moss says:

      Unemployment insurance has been around for over 70 years and you still are whining about it.

      For most of those years, you either went to the Unemployment Office and collected your check or it came in the mail at a specified date.

      This was one of the first state government processes outsourced. Here in NM, it went to India – under our last Republican governor, Gary Johnson. Yeah, the same incompetent who thought he was saving money on license plates when he outsourced them to a firm that left county info off the plates by mistake.

      When you’re collecting that wonderful check, the procedure takes weeks to process in the first place. Add another 10 days on top – well, of course, people will take the short course. Many of those being laid-off from work have only been making it week-to-week, anyway.

    • Joy says:

      Hey, this is the “Change We Can Believe In” bullsh..t you sorry ass freeloaders voted for now enjoy it for the next four years. All you guys kept saying it can’t get any worse than it was under Bush, you wanna bet just wait this is the beginning have fun. I got to go and get my husband up for him to go to work.

    • keaneo says:

      Aside from the intellectual dwarf who pretends to have a working husband – let’s step away from ideology for a minute and reflect on what I read here at Eid’s blog.

      There is support not only for the stimulus package; but, for sustaining our banking system. Certainly enough reference to the foot-dragging which did the Japanese economy no good.

      What comes around is the requirement for honesty in doing business – which disappeared in mortgage banking over the previous 8 years – as did the qualitative growth in lobbyist influence over the past 15 years.

      I don’t see anything wrong with supporting institutions essential to our economy – as long as there is a quid pro quo. Voting stock in return for bucks. No bonuses paid to the engineers of failure.

      I watched a talking head on TV, today, whining that we’d lose all the talent from AIG, for example, if they didn’t get their bonuses. That “talent” produced losses. Let ’em quit and try making it on unemployment comp – while there are dozens of unemployed who used to work in the money biz just waiting for a chance at a job. Their jobs.

  2. keaneo says:

    Man, I hate getting a topic stuck in my head beyond an immediate response. This is, after all, my holy day of reverence before the altar of sports on TV.

    Been so long since I was unemployed I had to go look up the numbers. In Pennsylvania – where this article starts – you get a max of 44% of your normal pay. And like every other state, you’re only eligible to collect UI if your unemployment was through no fault of your own.

    That should cover most of the nutball questions. Taking home 56% less makes charges feel a lot higher.

    Asking around, Googling around, I can see how folks like Mr. Lippe get hot – for the only other examples of state and federal support using smart cards do not include charges. ADC, food stamp program, state welfare programs [in most states] have long been computerized. And managed in-house.

    The fact that unemployment programs apparently were the main sales target for South Asian entrepreneurs selling outsourcing seems to have taken the average state’s IT dept out of the loop altogether. So, they turned to banks. And banks think this is just another ATM package – or at least that’s the way they bid out.

    They lowball to get the contract and try to make back the difference with charges. That’s perfectly usual in the American banking industry.

    Doesn’t feel normal or honest to folks who look around at the checkout counter and see folks with smart cards that look just like theirs – except they’re not being hit with charges.

    Looks like states and banks should get this together – and they could have months and years ago – before unemployment numbers spiral up another couple of tiers. Of course, state legislators [a special breed] may sort it out for them…

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