Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez co-wrote Senate Bill 276. Photo by Ken Stone

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, announced Thursday she will introduce legislation Monday to require a direct- deposit option be available for unemployment insurance and other income- replacement recipients.

Monday is the first day of the 2021-22 legislative session and Gonzalez said the issue is urgent for those struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“After too many Californians have already waited months for their unemployment benefits to be approved, widespread problems with debit cards have prevented countless families from putting food on the table or paying the bills,” she said. “Making a direct deposit option available is a simple, commonsense solution to so many challenges we know California residents are facing.”

Gonzalez said issues such as fraudulent transactions, card freezes and withdrawal limits with debit cards have caused a range of issues for Californians who are without work and in need of unemployment benefits.

California is one of three states that does not allow the option for direct deposit of unemployment benefits, according to CalMatters.

Instead, residents receive benefits either by paper check or through a Bank of America debit card. Gonzalez said the Employment Development Department that processes and oversees unemployment claims in the state has no direct access to debit funds on any accounts, and no ability to resolve fraud issues for individual cards.

The Bank of America debit cards issued do not use chip technology, which makes them more susceptible to scammers who can “skim” data from the magnetic strips.

Gonzalez said direct deposit to an existing bank account would provide Californians their benefit payments quickly and securely, with less opportunity for scammers to access the money.

Additionally, she said, only up to $1,000 can be withdrawn from the debit cards per day. This can create an additional hurdle to paying expenses like rent. Debit cards also run the risk of being stolen from the mail or mailed to the wrong address, and can be subject to additional fees, Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez represents California’s 80th Assembly District, located in southern San Diego County, including the cities of San Diego, Chula Vista and National City.

–City News Service

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