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Sharing the wealth (of the unemployed!) :-)

“A penny here, a penny there….”

Multiplied by probably over 600,000+ receiving unemployment benefits alone, in California…

(528,919 people receiving regular unemployment insurance benefits during the June survey week + 74,944 new claims for unemployment insurance in June 2011)… and pretty soon you are talking about REAL MONEY! Bank of America and Visa are gaining hundreds of thousands of  “new customers,” since the California Employment Development Department (EDD) started rolling out their new “EDD Debit Card℠” on July 8, 2011, instead of sending the unemployed a check. The California unemployment rate rose slightly in June, to 11.8% (I’ll write more about that later!)

Since we are talking about CORPORATIONS in general, and BANKS in particular, there is only one reason that the change to debit cards was made: money. Obviously, Bank of American and Visa convinced the State of California that they could do the job more cost effectively than with the government workers themselves. (Incidentally, EDD sometimes sends the unemployed 2-3 snailmail letters in a week – what a waste of postage!)

According to the EDD site:

“California’s benefit programs constitute a much larger volume than any other state. The EDD paid a record $22.9 billion in total UI benefits in 2010 and approximately $4.1 billion in combined DI and PFL benefits. A total of more than 41 million checks were issued between <sic> all three benefit programs. Due to such incredible volume, the EDD was able to negotiate very favorable terms for our customers such as:

Claimants can avoid fees with proper use of the card, including unlimited cash withdrawals at all in-network ATMs and two free withdrawals per benefit deposit <emphasis mine> at any ATM outside the Bank of America network

There is no charge to EDD or the state since Bank of America costs are covered through interchange fees paid by businesses that honor the debit card.”

So… what’s in it for the UNEMPLOYED?

According to the EDD Web site:

“The Employment Development Department (EDD) Debit CardSM from Bank of America is the new and more efficient way of delivering California State Disability Insurance (Disability Insurance [DI], Paid Family Leave [PFL]), and beginning July 8, 2011 Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefit payments. The EDD Debit CardSM allows customers to receive their benefits faster, easier, and more secure. It also provides customers with a direct deposit transfer option once they have received their card. Customers should keep their card. The EDD Debit CardSM is valid for three years from the date of issue, and will be used for all EDD benefit programs (DI, PFL, or UI benefit programs).

The EDD Debit CardSM can be used everywhere Visa® debit cards are accepted. Customers will be able to access cash at ATMs, point of sale* terminals, and at Visa banks and credit unions. The rollout of the new debit card for UI payments will take a couple of months to complete for all of our customers. Below is important information for customers to know throughout this transition period.”

Well, isn’t that “special?!” :-) Does the EDD Debit Card℠ allow customers to receive their benefits “faster?” No. More easily…? No. And more securely…. No, at least not more securely for the customers with safe mailboxes…. The transactions are obviously more easily trackable (hence more “secure”) for the  bank and debit card company involved!

Also on that EDD Web page is a link to a YouTube Video about “How to use the card and avoid fees.”

FEES?!!

You can read all about which transactions with the EDD Debit card have no fees AND WHICH ONES DO!

Well, I am a Visa customer. Bank of America is one of the banks (Wells Fargo, Chase, and Rabobank are some of the many others) with which I will not voluntarily do business, as the result of interactions that I have had servicing them in my high tech positions, my personal experiences with them, and things that I have read about them. Your mileage may vary, and these are my own personal choices and beliefs.

What are the benefits to recipients listed on the EDD site:

“Electronic payments are quicker, safer, and easier for the EDD customers. Card benefits include:

No more waiting for checks in the mail.
Use everywhere Visa debit cards are accepted – in stores, online, or by phone.
Get access to cash at ATMs, point of sale* terminals, and at Visa banks and credit unions.
Use your card to pay bills.
No more check cashing fees for those who do not have bank accounts.
Reduced security risks associated with lost or stolen checks.
Direct deposit option available.”

You don’t wait for checks in the mail – you wait for funds to be transferred from Bank of America (BofA) to YOUR bank account (oh, while Bank of America is making interest on YOUR money)! You can use your card anywhere that Visa is accepted (while making money for BofA and Visa)! You can use your card to pay bills – you can ALSO use cash or a check on your OWN account to pay bills! No more check cashing fee for those who do not have bank accounts – sure, let’s exploit those who cannot open a bank account! Reduced security risks associated with lost or stolen checks – INCREASED security risks with electronic funds transfer, especially in an industry that uses a a Windows Server environment! Direct deposit option available – notice how this was listed LAST?

As for FEES, you can read ALL about them in the Terms and Conditions! :-)

So, did YOU ask for fees on your unemployment benefits in California? (Or to have your personal employment and credit histories and medical records placed in yet another highly-targeted Windows environment…?) It looks like you got them ANYWAY! :-)

I just watched President Obama’s speech on the debt ceiling and the House Republican plan to protect the top 2% of income earners. I also watched the Speaker of the House skillfully dodge any mention of protecting the income of the top 2%.

Sorry, but I believe there is ample evidence to suggest that banks are cashing in on the unemployment in California, and the top 2% of income earners are pillaging the bottom 98% of the “rest of us.”

You can make your own choices – I’ll go with the facts. By the way, under “FACTS” in the brochure that comes with unemployment benefits is the question:

“WHAT DOES BANK OF AMERICA DO WITH YOUR PERSONAL INFORMATION?” …

What? The types of personal information we collect and share depend on the product or service you have with us. This information can include:

  • Social Security number and employment information
  • account balances, transaction history and credit information
  • medical information”

Well, that just about wraps up all of the important stuff! Without your permission, your personal information  is now routinely shared. Worse, “In My Humble Opinion” (IMHO), without your permission, your personal information is now placed on Windows Server systems which have a higher frequency of cyberattacks, so your personal information is more vulnerable.

It is so comforting to know that the government of the State of California is so willing to share the tiny amount of money that the unemployed receive with great big financial companies like Bank of America and Visa. It is so comforting to know that Republican Members of the U.S. House of Representatives (mistakenly believing that they have a mandate from The People) are willing to risk the financial rating of the United States of America to protect the top 2% of its income earners.

-Bill at

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