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I-Team: Bridge card money going to big banks

Updated: Saturday, March 22, 2014 |
I-Team: Bridge card money going to big banks story image
KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - The Newschannel Three I-Team has found taxpayer money intended for the bridge card program is going to big banks.

Paying ATM fees is frustrating for just about everyone, fees that can at times be as much as $4. But the I-Team found Bridge card users receiving cash assistance also pay the fees straight to the banks.

"I would say if there's an alternative we need to find a way to do that and that would be the preferred route," says Mike Ross with Community Promise Credit Union.

Ross is a volunteer helping low income families with budget planning and says extra fees can have a big impact on low income families.

The I-team also found the state doesn't keep track of how much taxpayer money is going to ATM fees.

The Michigan Department of Human Services did tell us last year there were 1,604,504 ATM cash assistance withdrawals in Michigan.

And because the state doesn't direct deposit cash assistance, for some people ATM’s are the only way to access the money.

"I think that the issuer of the card could provide means for them to get cash without being charged whether it's through a preferred network or a specific network provider at least give them an alternative of who's network to use where they're not going to charge you," says Ross.

DHS says the Fifth Third bank chain has agreed not to charge ATM fees to bridge card users.

In a statement a DHS spokesperson says, “The Department of Human Services Bridge Card serves as both an important benefits resource and convenience for its many clients. While there are a limited number of free transactions that can be conducted by the cash recipient monthly, additional transactions can incur fees by banks and individual owners of ATM’s, just as those same fees may be incurred by those using regular debit or credit cards at the same locations. These fees are not collected by the state of Michigan.

DHS encourages its clients to use ATM and branch locations that do not charge added fees for bridge card cash withdrawals, to get cash back on purchases at stores that don't charge these fees and to carefully monitor the number of transactions they do make at ATM's each month."
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