Okay, so we’re all sitting in this auditorium jam-packed with furloughed Great Desert University employees, listening to the HR people and a couple of gurus from Department of Economic Security telling us how we can access the unemployment insurance that is supposed to cover the twice-monthly furlough days.
At one point, the DES guy says, “You’ll get a debit card, and your benefits will be deposited to this debit card.”
A groan rises from the audience and fills the hall.
“Oh, I guess you don’t care for debit cards?”
No joke, says someone.
So, can we ask to have a check sent to us or to get direct deposit? someone else asks.
“Yes,” he says, “you can ask for direct deposit by going to the Web site, downloading a form, filling it out, and sending to DES along with a canceled check. But the first payment defaults to the Chase debit card, and there’s nothing we can do about that.”
We will, we’re given to understand, either have to spend the money on the debit card at retailers or go to an ATM or the bank and ask to have it in cash. But, we’re told, we must be careful, because Chase has a number of gotchas, and will charge fees for any number of arcane reasons. Read the paperwork that comes with it carefully.
I filled in the forms to claim unemployment, and within a couple of weeks a debit card arrived. At first, it developed, no money was on it because DES sent the cards out before they even got the data on ASU’s employees; since the agency is not online, it would take several weeks to manually keyboard information on several thousand furloughed employees. Eventually, enough time passed that I started to see the requested direct deposits appear in my checking account, so I figured the initial deposit must be there; all I wanted to do was retrieve it and move it into savings, there to wait for the day in December when I will be canned.
After several frustrating tries, I finally gave up. It simply would not disgorge the money, and no one at two different branches knew why or what to do about it.
So, I mailed the damn thing to DES and asked them to return whatever money they’d put on the card to the federal government, to whom it belonged.
Weeks later, along comes this message from an assistant director at that august agency:
The week ending February 7, 2009 was your mandatory, nonpaid waiting week. Your next Shared Work week was the week ending February 21, 2009; this was the first paying week of your Shared Work benefits. Because your employer’s certification for that week [was?] on March 16, 2009, the order to move your benefit payments from your debit card to your bank account had already taken place on March 9, 2009. [Is there logic here? Where?] The benefit payment was not made to your debit card, but to your bank account on March 17, 2009. The reason your Chase debit card could not pay your $48.00 is because no funds were ever put into that account.
Reason is because…oh, God, I hope you were never in one of my required writing classes…
That distraction aside, why on earth did DES tell us that the first payment would default to the debit card, no matter what, no questions asked, no rebellion brooked? But then…what on earth does this person’s message mean, anyway: GDU asked that I be paid on March 16, and so DES paid me on March 9? Hey: who needs to be online when you’ve got a crystal ball?
WhatEVER. Apparently giving away the debit card was giving away nothing.