The Norman Transcript

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October 31, 2013

Oklahoma’s Safety-Net payment system scrutinized

(Continued)

NORMAN —

His bill, sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, advanced in the Legislature but died short of passage. Inman plans to reintroduce the bill next session with a compromise that allows only certain agency heads and legislators to see the fee totals.

Inman said recently he does not know how many people incur fees for using the debit cards, but complaints have come from around the state. He said the fees target the elderly, who might not be familiar with the system.

“I would say there’s a fair amount of people out there who are paying the fees,” Inman said.

Oklahoma is not the only state using a debit-card system. Forty-one states and Washington, D.C., use pre-paid debit cards to distribute unemployment benefits, according to the National Consumer Law Center.

ACS provides 60 government card-services programs in 28 states and cities and one for the U.S. Treasury Department, according to the company.

ACS and its subcontractor banks make money from the programs in several ways, including from:

· Fees paid by recipients for certain transactions, such as when they use the debit card to withdraw cash using ATM machines or they check their card balance more than a certain number of times. Fees can run up to several dollars per transaction.

· Fees charged to retailers when users make purchases with the card.

· The “float,” or interest generated by funds deposited with banks to cover the debit-card purchases.

Many Oklahomans who pay the fees are among the state’s most vulnerable — the unemployed, the poor, single-parent families and the elderly.

Oklahoma Watch is a nonprofit, nonpartisan journalism organization that produces in-depth and investigative content on important public-policy issues facing the state. For more Oklahoma Watch content, visit oklahomawatch.org.

 

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