SOURCE: Pennsylvania Treasury

Pennsylvania Treasury

August 31, 2015 10:33 ET

Pennsylvania Treasury Teams With U.S. Bank for Enhanced Prepaid Debit Card Program for Unemployment Compensation and Workers' Compensation Benefit Recipients

Prepaid Debit Card Program Processes Over $800 Million in Deposits Annually, Saves Claimants $2.3 Million in Fees and Reduces Taxpayer Costs by Nearly $1 Million

HARRISBURG, PA--(Marketwired - August 31, 2015) - Pennsylvania Treasurer Tim Reese today announced U.S. Bank will be the new provider of Treasury's prepaid debit card program used by nearly 80,000 Unemployment Compensation and Workers' Compensation benefit recipients. Treasury expects to send the new U.S. Bank-issued "ReliaCard" in mid-September and begin funding them on October 1, 2015.

With the new prepaid debit cards, users will be able to make an unlimited number of withdrawals at approximately 3,200 ATMs in Pennsylvania (and 68,000 nationally) without paying a fee. In addition, users can make fee-free purchases at retail establishments and will have online bill payment capabilities. Cardholders will also now have access to a comprehensive mobile application that allows them to manage their account and locate free ATMs in order to avoid out-of-network ATM fees. In the unlikely event that a fee-free ATM is not nearby, cardholders will be able to make up to four withdrawals per month from any ATM without a fee from U.S. Bank.

"I am pleased that Treasury was able to secure a consumer-friendly program that ensures unemployed and injured Pennsylvanians can continue to cost effectively receive their benefits during a difficult time," said Pennsylvania Treasurer Tim Reese. "The prepaid debit program allows claimants to receive their payments faster and more conveniently than with checks, collectively saves claimants over $2.3 million in annual fees that are charged by other prepaid card programs, and importantly saves taxpayers nearly $1 million annually in check-issuance costs."

Treasury, the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry (which issues the benefits), and U.S. Bank designed the program to be completely free to cardholders when used responsibly. The program is supported by fees paid by retailers when purchases are made -- similar to traditional debit and credit cards -- and fees for some infrequently utilized services, all of which are disclosed to cardholders on the fee schedule. While fees for a small number of those infrequently utilized services increased, such as excessive out-of-network ATM withdrawals and account inactivity, the new program offers two additional free out-of-network ATM withdrawals each month and replacement cards at no cost.

"Our goal was to select a new prepaid debit card that was convenient, easy to use and would provide a seamless transition for our claimants as we migrated to the new program," said Department of Labor & Industry Deputy Secretary for Unemployment Compensation Kevin Cicak. "The 'ReliaCard' program, with all of its enhanced features, is a win for unemployment and workers' compensation claimants."

"The U.S. Bank ReliaCard® Visa offers claimants a robust set of features focusing on convenience and security including 24/7 access to funds, bill pay and balance alerts to name a few," said David Smith, senior vice president of Prepaid Products at U.S. Bank.

While the new U.S. Bank cards will be effective on October 1, claimants will not be able to transfer balances from their previously issued Chase cards and should continue to use their Chase cards until they have spent their balances down to zero (or have withdrawn any remaining funds). In addition, cardholders need to set new PIN numbers for their new U.S. Bank cards when they receive them because the PIN numbers on their Chase cards will not automatically transfer over.

Notifications on the program transition were sent in mid-August and new U.S. Bank cards will be mailed in mid-September to approximately 65,000 Unemployment Compensation and Workers' Compensation claimants currently using Chase debit cards with recent deposits. Any claimants who anticipate receiving payments from Treasury on a prepaid debit card on or after October 1 should verify their address with the Department of Labor & Industry to ensure notifications and new cards are sent to the correct address.

Consumer Friendly Program
Treasury's commitment to provide inexpensive and convenient prepaid debit card services continued to earn praise from consumer advocates.

Lauren Saunders, Associate Director at the National Consumer Law Center and co-author of several reports on state-issued debit card programs, noted: "Pennsylvania's new prepaid debit card can easily be used at no cost to the consumer. We commend Treasury and U.S. Bank for designing a card that does not just eliminate one or two annoying fees, but is nearly fee-free."

Sharon Dietrich, Managing Attorney with the Community Legal Services of Philadelphia, said: "We are pleased that Treasury made efforts to secure a prepaid debit card with favorable terms for distributing unemployment benefits. Unemployed people need to be able to access their benefits easily and without high costs. They need every dollar to tide over their families until they can get back on their feet."

Treasury's existing program, administered by Chase since 2013, offers numerous free services and was recognized by consumer advocates as one of the leading prepaid debit card programs in the nation. Chase, however, announced in January 2014 that it was joining a number of other financial institutions in exiting the government prepaid debit card business, leading Treasury to initiate a competitive procurement process to select a new provider.

U.S. Bank's proposal received the highest score among several proposals evaluated by a team of Treasury and Department of Labor & Industry subject matter experts based on several factors including fee schedule, number of fee-free ATMs, and ability to reliably deliver services.

As in the Chase program, all withdrawals from ATMs not in the fee-free network in the U.S. Bank program are subject to surcharges imposed by the machines' owners.

For more information, visit www.debitcard.patreasury.gov.

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About U.S. Bank
Minneapolis-based U.S. Bancorp (NYSE: USB), with $419 billion in assets as of June 30, 2015, is the parent company of U.S. Bank National Association, the fifth largest commercial bank in the United States. The company operates 3,176 banking offices in 25 states and 5,022 ATMs and provides a comprehensive line of banking, brokerage, insurance, investment, mortgage, trust and payment services products to consumers, businesses and institutions. Visit U.S. Bancorp on the web at www.usbank.com.

Editor's Note: the following is a per-county estimate of prepaid debit cards that will be mailed by U.S. Bank and estimated benefits to be deposited on those cards in 2016.

County  Estimated Number of Debit Cards to be Mailed  Estimated Unemployment Benefits to be Paid on Debit Cards in 2016  County  Estimated Number of Debit Cards to be Mailed  Estimated Unemployment Benefits to be Paid on Debit Cards in 2016
Adams  467  $5,778,667  Lackawanna  1,178  $14,570,721
Allegheny  6,166  $76,232,389  Lancaster  2,260  $27,936,989
Armstrong  391  $4,835,855  Lawrence  494  $6,112,485
Beaver  972  $12,021,973  Lebanon  625  $7,722,933
Bedford  264  $3,261,496  Lehigh  1,865  $23,056,023
Berks  2,038  $25,203,288  Luzerne  1,921  $23,748,471
Blair  629  $7,781,577  Lycoming  680  $8,410,870
Bradford  349  $4,314,828  McKean  229  $2,826,179
Bucks  2,953  $36,517,024  Mercer  559  $6,908,687
Butler  887  $10,966,385  Mifflin  228  $2,821,668
Cambria  831  $10,278,448  Monroe  964  $11,924,985
Cameron  31  $378,929  Montgomery  3,504  $43,326,468
Carbon  353  $4,368,961  Montour  80  $985,666
Centre  612  $7,567,302  Northampton  1,585  $19,600,552
Chester  2,063  $25,510,040  Northumberland  485  $5,990,687
Clarion  200  $2,478,827  Perry  211  $2,602,881
Clearfield  422  $5,214,784  Philadelphia  9,364  $115,783,100
Clinton  242  $2,995,343  Pike  299  $3,701,324
Columbia  370  $4,576,470  Potter  90  $1,109,721
Crawford  417  $5,153,885  Schuylkill  804  $9,940,119
Cumberland  1,041  $12,870,052  Snyder  188  $2,329,962
Dauphin  1,275  $15,768,407  Somerset  429  $5,305,006
Delaware  2,750  $33,999,853  Sullivan  36  $439,828
Elk  159  $1,966,822  Susquehanna  210  $2,600,626
Erie  1,420  $17,554,787  Tioga  252  $3,110,375
Fayette  800  $9,888,242  Union  187  $2,311,918
Forest  27  $333,818  Venango  274  $3,392,316
Franklin  710  $8,774,010  Warren  187  $2,309,662
Fulton  80  $987,922  Washington  1,091  $13,483,556
Greene  214  $2,647,992  Wayne  218  $2,697,613
Huntingdon  243  $3,002,110  Westmoreland  1,913  $23,655,994
Indiana  522  $6,450,815  Wyoming  161  $1,991,633
Jefferson  231  $2,860,012  York  2,190  $27,082,144
Juniata  108  $1,337,529         

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