Any day now, unemployed Pennsylvanians will receive new debit cards to access their unemployment benefits.
But there's a wrinkle: The funds on the old blue cards won't transfer onto the new ones.
"My fear is that people will think that this transition works the same way as a new ATM card and they'll throw the old one away," said Sharon Dietrich, an employment lawyer who follows unemployment policy as part of her job with Community Legal Services in Philadelphia.
"The point is," she said, "use all the money. Don't throw away the money."
The cards are being mailed now -- assuming the state has the correct mailing address. It will not forward cards.
New benefits will begin to flow into the new gold cards on March 15.
The new cards, organized by state Treasurer Rob McCord, are an improvement over the old ones, Dietrich said.
Withdrawals and balance inquiries will be free at in-network ATMs.
Old cards can still be used at 2,600 PNC bank and MoneyPass locations.
New cards can be tapped at 3,200 Chase, AllPoint, MoneyPass, Sovereign Bank, Susquehanna Bank, and First National Bank of Pennsylvania machines.
MoneyPass and AllPoint machines are in stores or gas stations.
Customer service calls will be free, and there now is free online bill paying. Transfers to personal accounts are free -- they had been $1.50 each.
Some charges are higher. It costs more for expedited shipping of a replacement card and more for international transaction fees.
Hoping to prevent people from cutting or tossing their old cards while they still hold money, the Treasury Department plans to insert an explanatory leaflet into the envelope with the new cards.
It will be possible to get a replacement blue card if it is accidentally destroyed. Eventually, the unspent balance will be sent out in a check, Treasury spokesman Gary Tuma said.
The new cards are being issued by JPMorgan Chase & Co. The former cards were issued by ACS/Xerox EPPICard through Comerica Inc.
To verify a mailing address and get more information, go to www.patreasury.gov
For questions about the old blue card: 1-877-406-8257, www.eppicard.com, until at least September. For questions about the new gold card: www.ucard.chase.com. There is no phone number immediately available.
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