Michigan's Unemployment Insurance Agency on Monday began offering unemployed workers direct deposit and debit card electronic-payment options for receiving unemployment benefits. Michigan previously offered only check payments for unemployment funds, says Norm Isotalo, an agency spokesperson. The state added electronic payments to decrease costs and to increase the speed of disbursing funds, says Isotalo. The state issued 3.4 million unemployment checks in 2007. "With that number in mind, we are estimating these new electronic options will save $1.6 million annually in postage and paper costs," Isotalo says. Sixty-six percent of unemployed workers signing up for unemployment benefits on Monday chose an electronic-payment option over checks, says Isotalo. New York-based JPMorgan Chase & Co. is issuing the Visa debit cards, known as Michigan UI cards, for the agency. "The ultimate objective is to phase out the issuance of checks," says Isotalo. He predicts the agency will remove checks as payment options for unemployment benefits "sooner than later."

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