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Government benefits now paperless

The U.S. Department of the Treasury says the electronic payment law stopping the mailing of checks went into effect today. Now the Treasury Department is urging Social Security and other federal benefit recipients not to delay and to switch now to either direct deposit or the Direct Express Debit MasterCard card.

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.

Switching to an electronic payment is not optional - it's the law. The Treasury Department published a final rule in December 2010 to gradually phase out paper checks for federal benefit payments. Since May 1, 2011, all people newly applying for federal benefits, including Social Security, SSI, Veterans Affairs, Railroad Retirement Board, Office of Personnel Management benefit payments 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, 2013, is the final deadline by which all remaining federal benefit check recipients must receive their money electronically.

Switching from checks to electronic payments is fast, easy and free at www.GoDirect.org, by calling the U.S. Treasury Electronic Payment Solution Center's toll-free helpline at 1-800-333-1795, or by speaking with a bank or credit union representative.

If check recipients wish to direct their money into a bank or credit union account, they will want to have the following information on hand:

Financial institution's routing transit number (often found on a personal
check)

Account type - checking or saving

Account number (often found on a personal check)

People who prefer receiving their payments on a prepaid debit card or who do not have an account at a financial institution can receive a Direct Express? card. For more information, visit www.GoDirect.org.

Currently, about 93 percent of Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments are being made electronically.

The switch to electronic payments means taxpayer savings will total $1 billion over 10 years. It costs 92 cents more to issue a payment by paper check than by direct deposit.

Electronic payments are safer than paper checks. In 2011, more than 440,000 Social Security paper checks were reported lost or stolen and had to be replaced - while $70 million worth of Treasury-issued checks were fraudulently endorsed in 2011.

Beneficiaries are 125 times more likely to have a problem with a paper check than with an electronic payment.

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