Washington still issues unemployment benefits the old fashioned way

Aug 1, 2011

OLYMPIA, Wash. – In this era of plastic, Washington still issues unemployment benefits the old fashioned way: by check. That's a stark contrast to neighboring Oregon where jobless benefits are loaded on a debit card. So what are the trade-offs?

Currently in Washington about 180,000 people are receiving unemployment. Half of them are signed up for direct deposit.

The rest get a check in the mail. It costs the state 45 cents to issue each check – most of that is postage.

Sheryl Hutchison is with Washington's Employment Security department. She says her agency is considering a move to electronic benefits, but doesn't want to burden unemployed Washingtonians.

"One of the things we have to look at is not just how much money it can save us administratively," Hutchison says. "But what does it do to the people we're trying to serve and if we save a little bit of money on one end, but cost them a lot in fees on the other end?"

"That may or may not be the route we want to go.”

Oregon issues unemployment benefits by debit card. The state says it doesn't pay U.S. Bank for the service.

But the bank does charge some fees to jobless Oregonians –- a practice consumer advocates have criticized.

On the Web:

Washington unemployment benefits FAQs:

Oregon unemployment FAQs:

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