Employment Development Department
Starting today, unemployed Californians will begin receiving jobless benefits through a debit card instead of a biweekly paper check – a move that will deliver payments faster and save the state about $4 million a year.
The state Employment Development Department will distribute 10,000 debit cards a day and payments will be paperless within a couple of months for all 1.2 million unemployment benefits claimants.
The Visa debit cards will be administered by Bank of America and can be used anywhere Visa cards are accepted. Scheduled payments will deposit directly into the recipient's debit card account for immediate access. Recipients also can have their benefits, which average $293 a week, transferred to their own bank accounts.
California's debit card program will be one of the largest in the nation, the department said. Forty-three other states deliver jobless benefits electronically as well, though not necessarily through debit cards.
The card will remain active for any benefits a claimant receives for a three-year period. Lost or stolen cards will be treated like a personal debit card and handled through Bank of America, said Patrick Joyce, a spokesman for the department.
California issued a record 41.2 million unemployment checks totaling $22.9 billion last year at the height of the recession. Going paperless initially will save the state about $4 million a year, according to the department. The department anticipates greater savings once claim forms for unemployment benefits, which currently must be filled out in paper and mailed every two weeks, become paperless next spring.
More than 2.1 million Californians are currently out of work. As of July 5, more than 462,000 Californians had run out of all available benefits.