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The U.S. Treasury Department is recommending federal-benefits
recipients in states struck by recent flooding switch their payments from
checks to direct deposit. The change could ensure benefits continue to
reach recipients even after a natural disaster, according to the department.
  The Treasury Department issues more than 935,000 Social Security and
Supplemental Security Income checks each month to residents of Minnesota,
Wisconsin, Iowa, Missouri and Illinois–the Midwestern states recently
affected by flooding, says Judith Tillman, financial management service
commissioner.
  After hurricanes Rita and Katrina, the federal government issued nearly
85,000 emergency payments to displaced residents who evacuated the
affected areas, says the Treasury. "By contrast, Social Security and
Supplemental Security Income recipients already using direct deposit were
able to access their funds immediately through ATMs, debit cards and financial-
institutions networks across the company," the department said in a
statement. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita struck New Orleans in August and
September 2005, respectively
  Besides marketing direct-deposit services, the Treasury earlier this year
began marketing prepaid debit cards to benefits-check recipients in 10
states, choosing to market the cards first to states with large numbers of
residents who receive benefits checks and states with a relatively high risk of
weather-related disasters, says\ Tillman. The Treasury intends to complete
marketing to all states by fall, she

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