In the alphabet soup of coronavirus-related terms is one that is fairly important to many Americans — EIP, which stands for Economic Impact Payment. That’s part of the roughly $3 trillion in coronavirus stimulus money Congress allocated in the early stages of the pandemic shut down.
The payments of up to $1,200 per person were to be deposited directly into your bank account, just like your income tax refund. It was yours to spend how you wanted.
But getting the money out has been anything but smooth. The government soon discovered there were problems with that method of payment, the largest being many folks simply do not have a bank account on file with the IRS.
To solve the problem, it was decided those people without a bank account would be sent a debit card. What could go wrong? Often instructions on how to activate the cards were online, and people who don’t have bank accounts many times don’t have access to the Internet either. Payment delivery dates came and went and often nothing showed up. People were left frustrated and worried.
Amazingly, according to the callers I’ve been talking with on the phone, say they only received the card with no instructions. Others worried the card, addressed from “Money Network Card Holder Service” was somehow a scam. Many mistook the cards as junk mail and tossed them in the trash.
On May 28, the FTC issued a release about what to do if you get an EIP debit card in the mail. Here are their instructions:
• Look for the prepaid card (and its envelope) in the mail. The envelope will be from “Money Network Card Holder Service.” (As we said, that name seems to be part of the problem with people believing it’s a scam). Inside the envelope will be a Visa branded prepaid card issued by MetaBank. This card gives you access to your Economic Impact Payment.
• Activate the card immediately. According to the IRS, the mailer has instructions on how to activate the card. There are a couple of ways to do so. You can activate your card by calling 1–800-240-8100 or by going online to USdebitcard.gov and clicking on the VIP card link. You’ll need to furnish your Social Security number. Once activated, you can get cash or use it just as you would any other debit card that accepts Visa. The debit cards expire in three years so be sure you use them before that.
• The company handling the debit cards for the government is Money Network. They’ve set up a 24-hour hotline or you can check your card balance or just ask any questions you may have. The number is the same as the activation number listed above, 1-800-240-8100
It’s very important to remember that, unless you’ve asked for assistance, no one will ever call you about your EIP card. Also keep in mind no one will text, email or ask you to click on the link they sent to activate the card or to get your money. If someone does attempt something like that, STOP. It’s a scammer! Don’t be pressured into giving your Social Security or debit card number.
Finally, if you don’t receive either the EIP money direct deposited into your bank account or failed to receive your stimulus funds via the debit card, you can get your money when you file your 2020 federal tax return next year.
Cheryl Parson is president of the Better Business bureau serving West Central Ohio. The BBB may be found on the Internet at www.lima.bbb.org.