By Jessica Borders
Times West Virginian
As state government moves away from paper paychecks and focuses on direct deposit, another electronic option is being offered.
Misty Price, deputy treasurer of cash management with the West Virginia State Treasurer’s Office, explained that state employees now have two choices for how to receive their paychecks. They can either select direct deposit or a new alternative called the West Virginia Pay Card.
State Treasurer John Perdue and State Auditor Glen Gainer and their offices have been working together for several months to make the West Virginia Pay Card an option for workers. This is a reloadable, prepaid Visa card, and funds are automatically loaded onto the card each pay day, Price said.
She said the employee can go to any ATM within the Visa network to withdraw cash, or visit any Visa bank to take all or part of their paycheck off the card — with no fees applied. The West Virginia Pay Card can also be used to make purchases, just like any other debit card.
Right now, approximately 4,000 state employees receive paper checks. Those individuals will have until Oct. 1 to decided if they want to switch to direct deposit or receive the pay card, Price said. Oct. 31 will be the first time wages are loaded onto the card.
Gainer said 91 percent of all public employees currently receive their paychecks via direct deposit. More than 30 state agencies are close to 100 percent direct deposit.
“We’ve got tremendous participation and agencies that have really worked hard to move their employees to direct deposit,” he said.
A few state agencies don’t have those high percentages, which pulls the state’s overall average down, he said. Gainer believes about 97 or 98 percent of employees will be on direct deposit after Oct. 1, and the rest will use the West Virginia Pay Card.
The state always encourages employees to use direct deposit, which is the safest and soundest way to receive payments, he said. But if they choose not to have a checking account or banking relationship, the pay card will provide security to them.
“We’re doing it as a benefit to our employees,” Gainer said. “This will bring them into the banking environment.”
Plus, finding places that will cash paper paychecks is becoming rare, and employees are often charged check-cashing fees, he said. The pay card takes away those hassles.
Instead of getting a piece of paper to take to the bank to get money, the employee will already have wages on
the card in their wallet. The person can use it as a true banking card throughout the pay cycle and year, instead of having to worry about carrying around a lot of cash.
Part of the reason why Gainer and Perdue are making this move now is because West Virginia is in the middle of implementing a new administrative system across state government called wvOASIS, or Our Advanced Solution with Integrated Systems. Gainer said law also requires that all wages at the state level be paid via direct deposit or pay card.
“The state will save a tremendous amount of money by making the changeover,” Price said.
She said the enhancements from wvOASIS will save the state about $500,000, plus other savings from the cost of paper and printing supplies for checks and employee time.
“From a government perspective, it’s much more efficient,” Gainer said. “We spend a lot of money and a lot of time dealing with lost and stolen checks (and reissuing them). It really is a safer and a more sound way.”
The state is getting out of the check-writing business and moving into the electronic payment age. Now, the only payment that allows for a traditional check is income tax refunds, Gainer said.
“We’re just trying to keep West Virginia moving in the right direction and adopting best business practices and operate as efficiently as we possibly can,” he said.
Price said she’s heard from some people who are excited to have the West Virginia Pay Card, and others who don’t want to change. But individuals seem to be more open to the pay card once they learn about its many options.
The website wvpaycard.com is kept up-to-date with the most recent information about the West Virginia Pay Card and which banks and ATMs people can visit free of charge.
“The more informed they are, the better they feel,” she said.
Email Jessica Borders at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter @JBordersTWV.