Georgia second state in nation to adopt faster, cheaper system
After August 6, 2004, all Georgia parents who receive child support will receive those funds either through direct deposit to their bank accounts or by using a new debit card, instead of a paper check. The Georgia Department of Human Resources’ Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) expects the new system to save $6 million per year in postage, printing and administrative costs, speed up payments, and eliminate the inconvenience of checks lost, stolen or delayed in the mail.
“This will make a big difference for thousands of parents who need child support to provide for their children and remain independent,” says Robert Riddle, OCSE director. “About 20 percent of these parents already use direct deposit, which remains an option if they have bank accounts. The new debit cards provide another choice, enabling everyone receiving child support to get their payments faster and avoid check cashing fees.” OCSE serves 29 percent of Georgia’s children by establishing child support cases and collecting and distributing court-ordered payments.
Even under ideal conditions, checks took from three to ten days to arrive after the non-custodial parents or their employers submitted a payment. If the recipient had moved with no forwarding address, the check would be returned to OCSE. Over 13,700 checks were returned last year. Now, payments arrive within 48 hours in the custodial parent’s debit card or bank account. In addition, staff will no longer need to spend time replacing lost or stolen checks.
A pilot group of 17,500 Georgia parents began using the cards in May. The rest of the parents on OCSE’s caseload are being offered the cards or direct deposit in four groups through July. Those who do not select direct deposit will be sent a debit card, provided through a contract
with Affiliated Computer Services, Inc. The same choices have been offered to DHR’s own staff, most of whom already receive their salaries through direct deposit. The department expects to issue its last paper paychecks on August 1.
Georgia is only the second state in the country to completely replace child support checks with debit cards and direct deposit, following Iowa’s launching of a similar system last December. Several other states have pilot programs. Georgia is the first state to eliminate paper checks for employees as well as child support recipients.
The cards, known as EPPICard™ Mastercard, can be used for a purchase - and in many cases a cash withdrawal - at any business that accepts MasterCard debit cards, and for a withdrawal at any MasterCard bank and at any ATM with a MasterCard, Maestro or Cirrus logo. Parents will not have to pay any fees to use the EPPICard™ MasterCard, except for withdrawals from an ATM or at certain retailers. The cards feature a color photograph of the Cherokee rose, Georgia’s state flower.
For more information about the debit cards, direct deposit and the phase-out of child support checks in Georgia, see www.cse.dhr.state.ga.us. The EPPICard™ Mastercard customer service number is 1-800-656-1347.
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