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Bank fees charged to Michigan unemployment benefits recipients criticized

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)
Progress Michigan executive director David Holtz (center) holds a news conference in front of a Chase bank branch in downtown Lansing, Michigan.

 One of the nation’s largest banks is being accused of ‘nickel and diming’ Michigan’s unemployed.    

The complaints center on a state program that gives debit cards to people receiving unemployment benefits.   Thousands of Michiganders use debit cards to access their unemployment benefits.  The accounts are administered by JP Morgan Chase.    

The group 'Progress Michigan' complains the bank charges fees for a variety of services, including $1.50 for checking an account balance.     David Holtz is the executive director of Progress Michigan.   He says the fee is unfair.   

"There’s money to be made by the banks and by retailers from the unemployed workers spending that money…instead of banks ‘nickeling and diming’ the unemployed workers for a buck-fifty to check their balance," says Holtz. 

 JP Morgan Chase declined to comment on the criticism.  

In a written statement, a state official says the fees are being addressed in negotiations over extending the current contract:

The Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget (DTMB) Procurement is the only state entity allowed to negotiate the terms and conditions of the contract. As part of the request for extension, Licensing and Regulatory Affairs has requested the fees currently being charged to claimants be addressed.

Progress Michigan wants the state of Michigan to renegotiate the contract so that banks cannot charge fees on the debit accounts.    

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Radio since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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