The U.S. Department of the Treasury reported that 5 million checks continue to be mailed to federal beneficiaries each month.
With just two months remaining until the March 1 electronic payment law goes into effect, the Treasury Department is urging Social Security and other federal benefit recipients to switch now to direct deposit or the Direct Express Debit MasterCard card.
"Choosing direct deposit or the Direct Express card makes it easier, safer and more convenient for beneficiaries to receive their payments. Switching to an electronic payment is not optional - it's the law," David Lebryk, commissioner of the Treasury Department's Financial Management Service, said. "If you or a loved one still receive paper checks for your benefit payments, now is the time to switch. It's free and easy."
Currently, approximately 93 percent of Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments are being made electronically. Converting the remaining paper check recipients to electronic payments will save American taxpayers $1 billion over the next 10 years.
Spreading the word
The Treasury Department published a final rule in December 2010 to gradually phase out paper checks for federal benefit payments.
Since May 1, all people newly applying for federal benefits, including Social Security, SSI, Veterans Affairs, Railroad Retirement Board, Office of Personnel Management benefits and other non-tax payments, have had to choose direct deposit or the Direct Express card at the time they sign up for their benefits.
March 1, is the final deadline by which all remaining federal benefit check recipients must receive their money electronically.
The Treasury Department's Go Direct public education campaign is working with more than 1,800 partner organizations throughout the country to spread the message about the electronic payment rule and educate federal benefit recipients about their options.
The campaign has developed and shared a variety of public service announcements, educational videos, check inserts and other materials to explain how electronic payments work and how to make the switch from paper checks.
The videos and materials are available on the campaign Web site at: www.GoDirect.org.
"The Treasury Department has taken great strides to support and guide check recipients through the change to electronic payments, and we're increasing our efforts significantly in the final two months before the deadline," Lebryk said. "We have a team of friendly, helpful agents standing by at our call center, and many financial institutions, caregivers, senior services providers and advocates for people who are homeless or have disabilities have the necessary information and resources to help federal benefit recipients make the switch."
Switch to electronic before time runs out
Check recipients can sign up for direct deposit or the Direct Express card by calling toll-free (800) 333-1795, visiting: www.GoDirect.org, or talking to their local federal paying agency office.
- By taking a few minutes to gather the necessary information ahead of time, most federal benefit recipients can sign up for electronic payments with one phone call.
- Individuals will need their Social Security number or claim number, their 12-digital federal benefit check number and the amount of their most recent federal benefit check. If choosing direct deposit, recipients also will need their financial institution's routing transit number - often found on a personal check - account number and account type - checking or saving.
- There are no sign-up fees or monthly fees to receive benefits electronically.