Federal benefits to be paid electronically by 2013

Americans who enroll on or after March 1, 2011, for benefits payments will receive them by direct deposit or be enrolled in the government's Direct Express Debit MasterCard program if they do not provide bank account information. Beneficiaries now receiving payments will switch to direct deposit or the debit card by March 1, 2013, after agencies inform them of the changes, Treasury said.

Efforts at mandating direct payments have failed because the government had not established the debit card program for people who don't have bank accounts, said Assistant Treasury Secretary Richard L. Gregg. "Now we have it," he said. "It's a proven card, and we think it's a very good alternative."

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