Funny about Money

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. ―Edmund Burke

Missing unemployment payment accounted for

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.

Author: funny

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  1. Howling — okay, the saga may not be funny to you, but having followed it since what? February? all I can do is laugh helplessly for you. This is one big class-action lawsuit waiting to happen (but only the lawyers will get rich).
    Reading your post, it just seems like your 48 bucks got trapped in a time-space continuum…but that would be letting the gub’mint off the hook for complete incompetence and possible intentional corruption.

  2. It is hilarious, isn’t it?

    In Arizona, you can’t sue the state unless the state gives permission for you to sue it. So even if all the unemployed folk out there could scrape together enough to hire a lawyer, no class-action suit is likely to take place.

    We’re living in a Monty Python Show. Or maybe it’s a Kurt Vonnegut novel?

  3. Funny–I have a solution! Instead of trying to figure it out, let other type A people do it. Then, when it’s all worked out (in November???), you can get your $48.00. I say this because I too tend to rush in and try to figure stuff out first.

  4. @ frugalscholar: It’s just too laughable to leave it alone!!! I keep poking it to see if it’ll make some new hilarious noise.

    Apparently they’ve already transmitted the 48 bucks. But who knows? They’ve increased our pittance, for reasons no one understands (something to do with Obama, apparently).

  5. @funny Don’t sue the state – trying to squeeze blood from a stone.

    Nay, sue Chase for creating adverse conditions and moneygrubbing restrictions that affect those least likely to fight back, the unemployed in their cozy little relationship with the gubermint. Just filing for a suit might get them to mend their ways in a time when banks are particularly concerned about image. Perhaps there is already a lawsuit.

    I’m not talking about going after a giant payout, but just suing for regulation relief so that you can get yr 48 bucks. Somewhere there is a young lawyer who wants to make his career by schooling Chase in the principles of fairness, and competative business practices. Oh yeah, and the really interesting lawsuit will be if someone goes after them on monopoly business practices (or a prosecuter on RICO organized crime) — people should have a choice about how to recieve their benefits.

    Strange how food stamps in AZ can just issue EBTs with the dedicated food money on them in a few days but unemployment can’t — I smell corruption in this agreement. Maybe they could hook up…someone on unemployment could go to any food stamp enabled grocery store and get a cash payout on their *unemployment* EBT card — be good for the stores cause then ppl would be tempted to stick around and spend. Naw, that would be too efficient.

  6. Oops, sorry, I got so incensed thinking about Chase I forgot to spellcheck my comments — sorry for the typos. in my previous comment.

  7. @ Chance: Yeah, Chase is definitely a different critter. Pretty clearly some kind of sweetheart deal is going on there. Obviously, an EBT would be cheaper, easier, and faster for DES to perform. Someone’s getting enriched from the debit card scheme, and it ain’t the taxpayer or the “client.”

    In Arizona, a lot of people have no checking account. You need to have a decent credit rating to get a checking account, and so if you’re one of the many underpaid schmucks who can’t make it on the piss-poor pay you earn in this right-to-work state, you likely can’t get a checking account. In that case, you HAVE to go to a payday loan dive or a cambio (a check-cashing business, usually present in stores like Food City that cater to the Latino population) to get your money–these places take a big chunk of the money as a transaction fee. So it makes sense that the state would want to find a different way to deliver unemployment checks, just to keep people from being ripped off.

    But it would help if they’d provide an option on the application form: I would like to receive benefits a) by check; b) by debit card; c) by electronic funds transfer. How hard IS this?

  8. Sorry to be a killjoy, but I think I get what the assistant director was trying to say in his very poorly worded letter.

    You requested that your benefits be paid to a bank account, not the debit card. That request was processed on March 9. You were NOT paid at this time. All that happened was that the mechanism was set up so that future payments would go to the account.

    You received your first payment directly to your bank account on March 17, one day after your employer provided “certification,” whatever that means. No crystal ball needed.

    Of course the letter is still a horrible example of writing, and there’s no excuse for the poor service you got from Chase. Sadly it doesn’t shed any light on the mysteries of fortunetelling.

    Keep up the good blog!

  9. @ MarliO: Top-flight job of mind-reading! That should be a salable skill. 😉

    O’course, part of the issue here is that we were told — in no uncertain terms! — that the first payment would default to the debit card no matter what. The DES guy said there was no choice in that, and that if we wanted future payments (after the first one) to be direct-deposited, we needed to get our request in promptly, since it could take several weeks to enter the change.

    I had good reason to believe the first payment was on the card, because the first deposit to my bank account came a good month after my application went to DES. We were told GDU would tell DES our first furlough day occurred the first week in February, meaning the mandatory waiting week should have happened early in February. It was the end of March before I saw any money: that’s a month and a half later, not a one-week wait! Since no paper statements are sent out, there’s really no way of knowing what period each payment in your checking account (or to your debit card) covers, so it was reasonable to think one payment had been made to the debit card.

  10. Here’s one for ya….I was an out of state claimant who left AZ and continued to collect in the new state, and have the funds put on the Chase card weekly. I monitored my UI account online regularly to check balances, etc., as they added tiers. Long story short, at the very end when my benefits were running out, I DEFINITELY had a balance of over $600.00 of UI benefits. One day it was there…..and the next day it literally disappeared. After speaking with umpty-ump ‘deputies’ by phoen, I was repeatedlytold that my funds were exhausted. When I confronted them about the $600.00 disappearing act, they replied unanimously ‘computer glitch’. Yeah right. Then they impuned a $194.00 overpayment, allleging my last payment was that amount too much. I wrote to the director of DES and saw how well they retaliate if you confront them. They suddenly, a year later, decided to harass me for working ONE DAY in May of the previous year. This had to have already been known to them, as it was three ‘quarters’ in the past, and the person assigned to my UI account had to have seen it. The fact that I was out of state, coming to the end of my benefits, and in the juncture of that lame 30 day extension they passed evidently made them decide to just take the money from my account and unceremoniously drop me from their books. As for that one day I worke3d, the employer (can you believe they CALLED him ver this?) backed me up by saying I was never hired, just in training, and was not discharged for any wrongdoing. But AZ was looking for SOMETHING to retaliate against a nobody like me for having th audacity to challenge the disappearance of the moneyand the obvious lie of the computer glitch. Anyway, I am not in trouble with AZ, but still angry at being ripped off!

    • @ Tess: Alas, it’s all too easy to believe this story. Given the crazy snafus we’ve been seeing, it’s credible. Though one wonders how they could get into your account to take money away from it…surely that can’t be legal. I’d have called the U.S. attorney general and complained of either theft or identity fraud; since this was going on across state lines, that alone would make it a federal case.