Cindy Jones, administrator of the Employment Security Division, told Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford on Friday his constituents can easily avoid bank fees on their benefit checks.
Horsford, D-Las Vegas, raised the issue, saying constituents have complained to him about being charged fees to withdraw money or even check their current balance.
He questioned how that was legal in view of the recent federal Wall Street reforms approved by Congress eliminating many such fees.
Jones said it was part of the state's negotiated contract, which provides debit cards used to pay those receiving weekly unemployment benefits. The contract allows beneficiaries to make four withdrawals using their card each month and to check their balance five times a month without charge.
After that, each withdrawal costs $1.75 and each balance check 35 cents.
Horsford said those banks get more than $130 million a week from the state and make interest on it until the beneficiaries take the money out.
"Yet they're passing the cost on to these unemployed people," he said.
Jones said her office tries to help those people avoid fees. She said to avoid a withdrawal fee, the individual can go to any bank that offers Visa card services and go inside to a teller to make the withdrawal. She said teller withdrawals aren't charged under the contract.
In addition, she said people can get cash back when using their debit card without paying a fee.
Current balance, she said, can be checked for free as many times as needed each month on line. The website is at www.eppicard.com, Jones said.
She told Horsford her office provides that information to all benefit recipients.
The debit card program, Jones said, has saved employment security more than $7 million since it was instituted, mainly in postage costs to mail checks to people each week. She said it also gets people their money each week much more quickly than the Post Office.