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On August 16, a Planet analysis aloft a cardinal of questions about a accommodation by the State’s Employment Development Administration (EDD) to accomplice with Coffer of America to accelerate BofA Debit Cards to all 1.2 actor Californians accession unemployment insurance. Initial attempts to acquaintance the EDD failed. However, afterward the advertisement of our story, The Planet accustomed an all-encompassing acknowledgment from the EDD’s Communications Manager Patti Roberts who offered to accommodate “clarification for some of the misinformation in the article.” Here is the latest.  

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One above point EDD admired to accomplish was that “Claimants do not charge a Coffer of America annual to alteration money from their EDD Debit Agenda annual to their claimed coffer annual at addition bank.”  

The Planet had already fabricated agenda of this in our aftereffect report. The Planet arise that, while this “BofA opt-out” advantage is acutely declared on the EDD’s Website (although you charge to do some scrolling to acquisition it), this advantage is not spelled out in BofA’s letter to its Debit Agenda recipients.  

EDD additionally states that: “Under contract, advice cannot be acclimated for business casework of Coffer of America, not will any advice be aggregate to [sic] any added entity.”  

The botheration is: the “Agreement” BofA beatific with the cards (as appropriate by federal law) states that advice will be calm and will be aggregate for “joint marketing” purposes. So let’s aloof achievement that EDD’s arrangement trumps BofA’s agreement.  

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EDD concedes that BofA “charges $1 per withdrawal” from non-BofA ATMs (the aboriginal two withdrawals are free) but EDD believes that “the fee anatomy adjourned with BofA is apparently added favorable than abounding bodies accept with their own coffer accounts.” EDD additionally notes: “A National Consumer Law Centermost abode ranked California’s debit agenda as one of the two best in the nation because of the casework provided to claimants for little or no fees.”  

But why are there any fees at all? Couldn’t EDD accept beatific its own letter to its 1.2 actor California claimants with instructions on how to align for absolute drop transfers into the banks of their choosing? The Planet has yet to accept an annual of why this avenue was not pursued.  

BofA initially explained that the agenda was actuality alien to accomplish check-cashing “Faster, Easier, and Added Secure.” The EDD’s acknowledgment provided a added reasonable annual for introducing a artificial agenda — the agenda was created “for those after a blockage account.” With the new card, EDD explains, “they no best accept to pay to get their checks cashed at a check-cashing facility.”  

This makes sense. But why, then, was the agenda imposed on all EDD claimants, including the majority who already accept absolute coffer accounts?  

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And, if application the poor is the goal, does BofA action the best advantage in low-income communities? In Berkeley, four of the bank’s six offices are amassed in the downtown/campus breadth with a fifth annex on a bartering amplitude of College Avenue. There is alone one annex to serve all the association of West Berkeley (located at 2546 San Pablo Avenue).  

EDD has additionally provided addition altercation for “going plastic” in these ambiguous times: “Continual commitment of allowances in the accident of a adversity back mail annual can be disrupted.” But what affectionate of calamity would agitate mail carriers while abrogation the electric filigree and computer networks unscathed?  

So how did BofA wind up with this absolute arrangement to annual 1.2 actor job-seeking Californians? According to the EDD, the administration “followed appropriate accompaniment accretion protocol. BofA was the alone banking academy that submitted a angle that met all our requirements and offered about no fees to claimants.” (That sounds a lot added cellophane that the annual offered by a BofA adumbrative who told The Planet the arrangement was awarded because “EDD is a chump of the Bank.”)  

EDD emphasizes that this flood of budgetary artificial comes at “no bulk to EDD” back the BofA “is accoutrement its costs through fees paid by banks and merchants who annual the cards.”  

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And how abundant money ability this convenance be raking in? The State’s merchants commonly appoint a 3% annual fee on the acquirement bulk for every acclaim agenda or debit agenda transaction. (This aberration is arresting at some gas stations that column a college price-per-gallon for credit-card users.)  

According to EDD statistics, the boilerplate annual acquittal affirmation is $1,180. Let’s accept that bisected of the bodies accepting the new agenda will use it to coffer with BofA (either because they don’t apperceive about the “opt-out” accouterment or because they don’t accept the accessories or computer abilities to alteration their funds online). That would bulk to 600,000 Californians afterward BofA’s admonition to “make purchases everywhere Visa® debit cards are accepted.”  

And if all 600,000 of these users spent all of this money on purchases fabricated through their acceptable new BofA cards, that would bulk to $8.5 billion a year. BofA’s three-percent fee on all those purchases would acquire $255 actor a year. Such a tidy sum should absolutely advice BofA “cover its costs.”  

A consecutive email from Loree Levy, EDD’s Deputy Director of Public Affairs, explained why the new debit cards appeared to accept been mailed from a abstruse EDD appointment in Gray, Tennessee.  

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“There are actual few locations in the country that aftermath debit cards,” Levy a The Planet. “Unfortunately, none of them are in California.” EDD’s “banking partner,” BofA uses “a agenda assembly supplier that produces in a ability in Atlanta. The Tennessee abode is for a Coffer of America chump acquaintance centermost area undeliverable mail is processed.”  

And why did the EDD’s cast arise on an advice packet created and mailed by BofA? “The EDD appropriate Coffer of America to accommodate the EDD logo on the envelope so our barter apperceive the envelope contains article from EDD…. Otherwise, as you know, some bodies don’t consistently accessible mail from an abode they are not accustomed with and we appetite our barter to accessible their envelope with their agenda included and actuate it appropriate away.”  

Postscript: On August 26, I was arrive to altercate The Planet’s debit-card disclosures on KPFA’s Morning Mix with Project Censored co-hosts Peter Philips and Mickey Huff. Philips recommended a Website alleged www.EDD.com.  

It is bright from the comments acquaint on EDD that there is boundless acrimony and annoyance over the BofA’s new role as the abettor for dispensing unemployment allowance claims. The criticisms appear from users who characterize themselves as “extremely annoyed,” “fed up,” and “starving.”  

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Among the specific complaints:  

“BofA’s absolute drop arrangement is down, has been for several days, and they don’t apperceive back it will be up.”  

“They… said I can’t set up the absolute drop over the phone, (despite the advice that was beatific with the agenda that said I could do it over the phone).”  

“Before, all I had to do was accessible the letter, booty a annual of the analysis with my phone, and accept the money deposited into my account. Now, according to the rep I talked to aftermost night, I accept to drive to a BofA ATM, booty out $900 in $200 increments, drive to my coffer with all that banknote in my pocket, and drop 45 $20 bills into my ATM … and achievement that annihilation goes wrong. Wow, what a abundant accessibility this is!”  

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Hopefully, EDD is ecology EDD and aggravating to amount out why so abounding bodies are accepting problems application the new cards to affirmation their payments — and rethinking the way the affairs was conceived. Clearly, there is allowance for improvement.

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