Federal Benefits Going Electronic Only

The Federal Government is changing the way you get benefits. As of March 1st, all payments will have to be received via direct deposit or loaded onto a government-issued debit card.

The United States Treasury Department started the "Go Direct" program in 2011, requiring anyone enrolling in federal benefits to use direct deposit. Now they're expanding the program in an effort to eliminate all paper checks. The debit cards are available through MasterCard for anyone without a bank account.

The head of the "Go Direct" Campaign, Walt Henderson, spoke with Newschannel 6 over the phone on Tuesday. He said, "It's all about delivering much needed federal benefits, in the safest most secure manner, to people across the county. Its also about savings for taxpayers."

Henderson estimates the government can save a billion dollars over the next 10 years by switching to electronic deposits. He said there's already been a good response. "When we started the campaign in January 2011 we were issuing 11 million paper checks each month and as of January 2013 were down to 5 million paper checks each month. Overall, 93% of Social Security and other federal benefit recipients already use direct deposit."

Many Texoma residents receiving benefits told Newschannel 6 they already have direct deposit set up, and have since they retired. For others, there is the possibility for a waiver. Anyone over age 90 will continue to receive paper checks. They're also available for people living in remote areas and those with mental impairments.

Anyone still receiving paper checks is asked to go online and register for direct deposit or the Direct Express Debit Card. there is also an extensive Q & A section and a hotline (1-800-333-1795) for people to call with questions.

Jack Lamson, Newschannel 6