People out of work already have money issues and some find state-issued debit cards given to those collecting unemployment carry hidden fees that can actually push them deeper into debt.
Thirty states now use the unemployment debit cards, called EPPI cards, and in Pennsylvania, they save taxpayers $2 million a year on postage that was used to sent out unemployment checks.
Debra Gould of Thornhurst learned someone else’s mistake with her card almost wiped her out. She wondered if she could put food on the table last week. She thought she had more than $200 in her unemployment insurance account, when she went to a Bear Creek station to fill her car with gas.
“They told me that my card was declined and I told them it was impossible,” Gould said
She went home to check her account on line and found herself $800 overdrawn.
One-thousand-50 dollars was withdrawn from her account at PNC Bank branch number 352. The branch in Wilkes Barre Township near the Mohegan Sun Arena.
Gould was livid. How, she asked, could someone walk into a bank she has never set foot in and come out with $1,000 from her unemployment insurance account?
“I honestly believed I was never going to see that money, because everybody was blaming each other,” Gould said.
As Newswatch 16 interviewed Gould PNC Bank called. A bank official told her another EPPI card holder withdrew $1,050 at that PNC branch.
EPPI wrongly took the money out of Gould’s account.
Six days after the mistake it gave back Gould’s money. A spokesman for EPPI’s parent company, Affiliated Computer Services, e-mailed a statement.
“We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience, which is a result of an isolated computer anomaly. The issue has been identified and we are taking steps to prevent it from reoccurring,” the statement said.
“We’re hoping this is an isolated incident,” said State Senator John Gordner. He sits on the senate’s labor and industry committee. He said the EPPI system saves money and is more convenient for users but he is concerned about Gould’s experience. “The department’s taking a look at it, talking with the contractor and making sure there are not other glitches out there.”
Debra Gould wants something else checked. Every time she called EPPI for help, the company charged her 35 cents.
“I was calling to figure out what was going on with the fraud that was on my end,” she said.
After Newswatch 16 called EPPI’s parent company, a spokesman told us Gould will no longer be on the hook for those 35 cent charges, adding that now when Pennsylvanians call to report stolen cards or identity theft there will be no fee.