With the change to electronic payments to Nebraskans receiving public assistance funds, clients are realizing a number of benefits, according to Thomas Pristow, director of Children and Family Services in the Department of Health and Human Services.
Beginning in April, clients received monthly notifications to select an electronic payment method by July 6, he said. They could choose to either have payments deposited in their bank account or on a U.S. Bank ReliaCard®. Electronic payments began July 9.
Pristow said electronic payments are timely, and deposits in bank accounts and debit cards are immediate and a more secure way to send funds to clients. He credited staff in the finance and support services areas of DHHS Operations for their dedication in completing the work to move to electronic transfers.
“Clients have greater accessibility to funds,” he said. “It’s not necessary to go to their bank to cash a check. This is especially beneficial to clients who live a number of miles from their bank, and it saves them time and money.”
A debit card also increases security and reduces stigma, he said. With electronic transfers of payments, clients experience no delays in receiving funds in their bank account or on their ReliaCard when they move. “Transactions are more accurate, traceable by the cardholder and deposits are immediate with no risk of lost or stolen checks,” Pristow said.
Purchases with a debit card can be made anywhere Visa debit cards are accepted, he said. When a transaction occurs, the purchase amount is immediately deducted from the debit card account.
Clients have had the option to receive electronic payments for several years, Pristow said. In June, the number of clients receiving payments to a debit card account was about 750, while about 1,000 took advantage of payments to their bank account.
“In August, 12,289 payments were made electronically to debit cards and 2,367 clients had funds deposited in their bank account,” Pristow said. “This is more cost effective than the time and expense of issuing checks.”
DHHS benefits because electronic transfers reduce mailing expenses and time in dealing with returned mail and incorrect addresses, he said.
“The banking industry, and state and the federal governments have moved to electronic deposits of funds,” Pristow said. “It just makes good sense that we also provide this convenience to our clients.”
The new electronic transfer of funds process is used for Aid to Dependent Children, Low-Income Energy Assistance, the Aged, Blind or Disabled, and others. Electronic payments also are made to providers for such programs as Child Care, Employment First services and Emergency Assistance, he said.