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W.Va. paychecks giving way to plastic

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Beginning this fall, no West Virginia state employee will be paid with a paper check.

Employees who don't use direct deposit will be paid with a Visa debit card. If they haven't signed up for direct deposit by Oct. 1, they'll receive their first payment on the card Oct. 31, according to state Treasurer John Perdue's office.

Letters about the new program are going out to employees within the next couple of days, said Perdue spokeswoman Gina Joynes.

"This is going to streamline the process and make it easier and faster for state employees to access their paychecks," Perdue said in a prepared statement. "Those workers who don't use direct deposit will now have an alternative way to access their money immediately, with no additional costs or hassle."

Eliminating written checks is expected to save the state $500,000 overall, according to the Treasurer's Office.

As of the next pay period on Aug. 15, nearly 45,000 people are on the state's payroll, and about 4,000 will be paid by check, said Justin Southern, spokesman for State Auditor Glen Gainer.

The state has contracted with Citibank at no cost for the cards, Joynes said.

"Saving money is a big part of it and it helps integrate with the upcoming OASIS system," Southern said. "It eliminates a quite a bit of paper that's processed through state government."

OASIS, which stands for Our Advanced Solution with Integrated Systems, is a new software system that will integrate the state's budgeting, human resources and financial management.

The state would have had to make costly changes to the OASIS system to keep using paper checks, Joynes said.

Employees with a pay card will be able to access funds free at Visa member banks and at certain ATMs in the state, as well as pay with the card wherever Visa is accepted.

There are 16 ATMs in the state network within Charleston city limits and many more throughout the state.

If employees don't use one of the ATMs designated by the state, they will be charged fees to get their salaries. At out-of-network ATMs, cardholders will pay $1.95 per transaction. There also is a 25-cent fee for declined transactions and fees to replace the cards or get a second card.

The state already pays unemployment benefits via Chase debit cards. In 2011, the National Consumer Law Center issued a report saying West Virginia's program charged some of the highest fees in the nation for out-of-network ATM withdrawals ($2.75 each) and denied transactions ($1.75).

Reach Lori Kersey at lori.kersey@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1240.


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