Written by Hillsboro Free Press Tuesday, 07 July 2009 14:16
Direct deposit can also protect people from serious financial crimes like check theft and fraud. The last thing caregivers should have to worry about is a lost or stolen check.
Half of American caregivers make health-related decisions for a loved one, and a new government survey finds an equal number are now helping to manage the finances of a parent, friend or other person needing their care—adding to caregivers’ levels of stress and anxiety.
Yet, surprisingly, only 52 percent of caregivers receiving Social Security payments on behalf of the person they care for say they use direct deposit, a decades-old time-saving tool that is safer and more reliable than paper checks.
According to the nationwide survey, sponsored by the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Go Direct campaign, one in four Americans define themselves as caregivers, with nearly eight in 10 caregivers providing two or more hours a week of voluntary help to a parent, friend or other loved one and four in 10 committing 10 or more hours a week of support.
About 6.5 million caregivers are receiving Social Security or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits on behalf of the person they care for.
“We want caregivers to know that by taking the simple, but important step of switching to direct deposit—and encouraging those they care for to do the same—people can avoid problems associated with paper checks and count on getting their money on time each month,” said David A. Lebryk, Acting Commissioner of the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Financial Management Service.
Importantly, direct deposit can also protect people from serious financial crimes like check theft and fraud. The last thing caregivers should have to worry about is a lost or stolen check, says Lebryk.
Treasury receives 1.4 million inquiries regarding problems with paper checks each year, and although paper checks make up just 20 percent of the total number of Social Security and SSI payments, they account for more than 90 percent of reported problems. Last year more than 480,000 Social Security checks were reported lost or stolen and had to be reissued.
Pushed to their limits
The impact of caregiving responsibilities is significant, the survey shows. Among caregivers:
n Sixty-five percent report increased levels of stress and anxiety as a result of their role.
n Forty-five percent are concerned about the financial costs of caring for their loved one.
n Sixty percent report having less time for themselves each day as a result of their role. In fact, the majority (63 percent) are looking to free up an extra hour or more each day.
Problems of paper checks
One in four caregivers say they have been unable to cash or deposit a check in a timely fashion because of issues like not being able to get to the bank during business hours, being too busy or being out of town.
Nevertheless, one in five caregivers still make trips to the bank to cash or deposit a check on behalf of the person they care for.
How to switch
Americans can easily sign up for direct deposit of their Social Security or other federal benefits for free by calling Treasury’s Go Direct campaign helpline at 1-800-333-1795, by visiting www.GoDirect.org, or talking to their local bank or credit union.
Federal benefit recipients without a bank account can choose to sign up for the Treasury-recommended Direct Express Debit MasterCard card by calling toll-free 1-877-212-9991, visiting USDirectExpress.com or talking to their local Social Security office.
The preceding information has been provided by the U.S. Department of the Treasury, Financial Management Service.
The Go Direct campaign is sponsored by the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Federal Reserve Banks.
The Direct Express Debit MasterCard card is issued by Comerica Bank, pursuant to a license by MasterCard International Incorporated.
MasterCard and the MasterCard Brand Mark are registered trademarks of MasterCard International Incorporated.
The Go Direct logo, Direct Express logo and Direct Express are service marks of the U.S. Department of the Treasury, Financial Management Service.
—Courtesy of ARAcontent