A new California law is reducing the amount of ATM fees certain borrowers have to pay.
Gov. Jerry Brown signed the Electronic Benefits Transfer Protection and Empowerment Act, AB 1614, on Sunday. The law includes a requirement that recipients of the California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids welfare program must receive information that helps prevent ATM fees being charged against them when accessing their benefits.
A California Reinvestment Coalition report released in March revealed that individuals paid $19.4 million in ATM fees in 2012 to withdraw their CalWORKs and other public assistance benefits. Bank of America earned $3.6 million from such fees. JPMorgan Chase received $2.8 million, while Wells Fargo obtained $2.3 million, the report found.
"This measure will help parents better provide basic necessities for their kids instead of using part of their needed benefits to pay for bank and ATM fees," Assemblyman Mark Stone, D-Monterey Bay and the law's sponsor, said in a press release Monday. "I'm pleased the governor has taken this step to fight multigenerational poverty."
The law directs county CalWORKS administrators to inform recipients about less-expensive alternatives, like direct deposit. The law requires all future EBT vendors who administer this system to provide a toll-free number and online dashboard for consumers to track their card use to report any potential theft.
The law also requires all EBT vendors to alert recipients and retailers if an outage is expected to last for more than an hour.
"California has one of the best systems for delivering benefits to grant recipients," Jessica Bartholow, a legislative advocate for the Western Center on Law and Poverty, said in the release. "Improvements made by AB 1614 will simply increase the ability of our state's poorest consumers to make choices and prioritize their resources for their basic needs."