Pinch of Salt Graphic (English)

When I'm not worried about violent insurrection or less-than-perfect vaccine distribution, it's always fun to try to figure out what the federal bureaucracy was thinking when they do stuff.

The latest head-scratcher came from a good friend of mine, Theresa Marino. Like most of us working stiffs, Theresa qualified for the recent $600 coronavirus stimulus check.

Theresa says that the last time this government largesse occurred, her money was deposited directly into her checking account — just like income tax returns do. Easy peasy, as they say.

But this time, she got something in the mail. It wasn't anything as simple as a check from the U.S. Treasury. Instead it was a debit card from some obscure bank.

She tells me she almost threw it away, figuring it was yet another plastic card scam trying to get her to borrow money at an exorbitant rate. I get those about once a week, so I wouldn't blame her.

But something that looked suspiciously like an honest-to-gosh Department of the Treasury seal gave her pause. The top of the insert said this was her "Economic Impact Payment Card."

So Detective Marino delved a little further. The card itself was attached to a full-page form, just like a legit credit or debit card.

A "fee schedule" on the reverse side gave Marino pause, until she read through the bureaucratese a third time and figured out that she could actually get money off the card without paying anyone anything.

Still, she's never heard of MetaBank, and I haven't either. It took some diligent self-talking to convince her the card was the real deal — which it was.

In fact, it appears this was another case of the government trying to do something good — getting the money to people in a safe way as quickly as possible. Most of us are familiar with debit cards. Actually, too many of us have become more familiar with EDD cards used to make unemployment payments, but that's another story.

It sure would have helped Theresa — and everyone else who got one of these cards — if someone would have put out a statement or two that some people would get cards instead of checks or a direct deposit into their bank account. In fact, that's why Theresa told me her story.

She's afraid that lots of people, especially seniors, will just trash the envelope and card, figuring that it's just another piece of junk mail. I'm writing (and hoping I'm not too late) asking you to not do that.

If there's a Department of the Treasury seal on the document, and the card looks legit, and there isn't a "fill this out and send it back to us" card included, chances are that is your government payment. If you're not sure, take it to your own bank and ask one of the officers there.

If you've got $600 coming from the government, please, please don't throw it away. I'll guarantee you the government isn't going to come knocking to check and see if you got your cash card.

Thanks, Theresa.


Harry has been executive editor of Gazette Newspapers for more than 26 years. He has been in the newspaper business for more than 35 years, with experience on both weekly and metropolitan daily papers in Colorado and California.

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