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Marshall Kofler at
Financial Management Service
U.S. Department of the Treasury

U.S. Treasury Department Advises Social Security Check Recipients to Switch to Direct Deposit as Hurricane, Severe Weather Season Advances

New government survey shows Americans aware direct deposit most reliable in times of natural disaster, yet millions haven't made the switch

WASHINGTON, D.C. - (May 20, 2009) - As hurricane season gets underway along the Gulf Coast and Eastern seaboard states and severe weather continues to impact other regions of the country, the U.S. Department of the Treasury is advising Social Security check recipients who live in hurricane- and other disaster-prone areas to switch to direct deposit. The recommendation is aimed at ensuring that senior citizens, people with disabilities and others receive their Social Security payments even if they are evacuated or lose mail service.

According to a new Treasury-sponsored survey, eight in 10 Americans say direct deposit is the most reliable way to receive a payment in the event of a natural disaster, while two-thirds claim they are prepared should disaster strike. Despite these findings, about 10.5 million Americans still receive their Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments by paper check each month - including nearly 2.8 million paper checks to senior citizens, people with disabilities and others living in hurricane-prone states.

"Paper checks can be delayed or even destroyed in natural disasters, causing additional and unnecessary hardship for seniors, people with disabilities and others who receive federal benefits," said David Lebryk Acting Commissioner of Treasury's Financial Management Service. "Whether people experience a temporary disruption in mail service or an evacuation, the last thing they should have to worry about is how they'll get their Social Security money."

In the weeks following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, for example, tens of thousands of emergency payments had to be issued. By contrast, Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients already using direct deposit were able to access their funds immediately through automated teller machines, debit cards and financial institution networks around the country. Last year alone, severe weather events forced alternative delivery arrangements for millions of Social Security and SSI paper checks.

Making the switch to direct deposit

Americans can easily sign up for direct deposit of their Social Security or other federal benefits for free by calling Treasury's Go Direct campaign helpline at (800) 333-1795, visiting www.GoDirect.org, or talking to their local bank or credit union. Social Security and Supplemental Security Income benefit recipients without a bank account can choose to sign up for the Treasury-recommended Direct Express® Debit MasterCard® card by calling toll-free 1-877-212-9991, visiting www.USDirectExpress.com or talking to their local Social Security office.

By the numbers

According to the survey, many Americans have taken some basic steps to prepare for a disaster, yet more than one quarter use paper checks for their wages, salary, Social Security or other regular payments:

  • More than six in 10 (64 percent) have assembled financial records and important personal documents to take with them in case of an emergency.

  • More than half (57 percent) say they have set aside money that is easily accessible should disaster strike.

  • Approximately 10.5 million Americans continue to receive Social Security, SSI or other federal benefit payments by paper check, instead of Treasury-recommended direct deposit.

Downloadable radio actualities (WAV and MP3 format) are available on the Media page of: www.GoDirect.org.


National results are from a nationally representative telephone survey of 1005 adults, ages 18 and over, conducted January 23 - January 30, 2009, by KRC Research. The margin of error for the overall study is +/- 3.1 percent at the 95 percent confidence level.

About Go Direct: Go Direct® is a national campaign sponsored by the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Federal Reserve Banks to motivate people who get Social Security and other federal benefits by check to switch to direct deposit.

About the Direct Express® card: The Direct Express® Debit MasterCard® card is a prepaid debit card for Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments. Cardholders can make purchases, pay bills, and get cash at thousands of locations nationwide. Sign-up is free and no bank account is required. Most services are free. There are fees for a limited number of optional transactions and services.

The Go Direct® logo, Direct Express® logo, and Direct Express® are service marks of the U.S. Department of the Treasury, Financial Management Service (used with permission).

The Direct Express® Debit MasterCard® card is issued by Comerica Bank, pursuant to a license by MasterCard International Incorporated. MasterCard® and the MasterCard® Brand Mark are registered trademarks of MasterCard International Incorporated.

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