Debit card added as payment option for unemployment

Debit card added as payment option for unemployment

Paper or plastic? That's the new question for Illinois residents on unemployment.

The state announced on Tuesday that unemployment insurance benefits are now available via prepaid debit card, in addition to the existing check or direct deposit options.

"Debit cards are another major step in our efforts to modernize the unemployment system and make it faster and easier for the unemployed to receive their benefits," said a statement from Brenda Russell, director of the Illinois Department of Employment Security. "This initiative shows Gov. (Rod) Blagojevich's continued commitment to improving the lives of all Illinoisans, and enhancing the way we deliver services to our customers."

The cards, issued in conjunction with Illinois National Bank, can be used to withdraw cash or purchase items anywhere that accepts VISA. The total withdrawal or purchase price is then debited from the balance on the card. As the cardholder qualifies for additional unemployment insurance payments, those amounts will be added to the balance on the card.

There is no fee to purchase items or get cash back from a transaction with a merchant, or to check the card balance online or by phone. However, cardholders will be charged a 50-cent fee to check the card balance at an ATM machine and 85 cents for any ATM withdrawal. The bank or financial institution that owns the ATM may also charge a transaction fee.

To receive benefits via debit card, the recipient must fill out a special claim form at the local IDES office. To get the form or for additional information, visit www.ides.state.il.us or the local IDES office. The Champaign office is at 1307 N. Mattis Ave. and the Danville office is at 407 N. Franklin St.

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