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Federal government to test debit card program

Jan 14, 2011 Todd Milner

The federal government will provide debit cards to individuals without bank accounts in a trial program that will provide them with tax refunds more quickly, the Columbus Dispatch reports. Those without bank accounts often use short term lending centers to retrieve the value of their tax refunds because of the extended time it may take a person to receive a hard refund check. Soon, the U.S. Treasury Department will reach out to 600,000 people with limited or no bank account access to gauge participation among those who are underbanked - those who often use short term lending centers because they possess no bank account history. "This innovative card can be used for everyday financial transactions, such as receiving wages by direct deposit, withdrawing cash, making purchases, paying bills and building savings safely and conveniently," Deputy Treasury Secretary Neal Wolin said in a statement. Interest at short term lending centers can significantly cut into the value of a tax refund, David Rothstein, a researcher at Policy Matters Ohio told the Dispatch. For example, short-term financing of a tax refund could potentially cut $400 from a $3,000 refund, Rothstein detailed.