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Public Assistance Recipients to Soon Be Given Debit Cards

June 1, 2006 — Public assistance checks are going high-tech in August. In a press release, Commissioner of Human Services Sedonie Halbert announced that people who receive public assistance checks will be getting a Banco Popular debit card instead.
The change will affect more than 450 people on St. Thomas and more than 750 residents on St. Croix, said Monife Stout, who handles public relations for the Department of Human Services.
Most states on the U.S. mainland already use electronic transfers for public assistance recipients, Stout said. She noted that there really are no drawbacks to changing to an electronic system.
"The reason we're doing it is so we can be up to par on electronic benefits," Stout said, adding that it's a step toward having a paperless system.
"As far as the clients are concerned, because they won't be using paper, they won't be waiting in line or waiting for checks," Stout said.
According to Stout, Banco Popular won the contract in a bidding process.
Public assistance recipients will receive appointment notices in the mail later this month. The notices will include a time, date and location for recipients to open or coordinate their debit card accounts. People who already have checking accounts with Banco Popular will receive electronic deposits. Those who do not have Banco Popular accounts will have to open one. Anyone opening an account will need two forms of identification, such as a driver's license, passport or voter registration card.
Those who are unable to keep their appointments may not receive their August benefits on time.
Public assistance recipients who have questions should call their local Financial Programs Division. The St. Thomas office phone number is 774-2399; in Christiansted, call 773-6050; and in Fredericksted, call 772-0085.
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