Child Support Debit Card Nightmares

Normally, I would avoid going on a personal rant, but it turns out my issues are only the tip of the iceberg. Synopsis: EPPICard, a debit card program used for unemployment, child support, alimony, and other cash payment programs by 23 states, is a terrible system rife with problems, and is incredibly customer-hostile.

Back in 2009, I had an EPPICard for unemployment. I lived in Indiana at the time and I’d just lost my job. I will say that getting and using the card was a snap at the time. But once I got a new job (which I moved to New Jersey for), I used up what was left on the card and then forgot about it.

Fast forward to a few years later, and I received a new EPPICard–this time for child support from my ex-wife. She was not ordered to pay much and so money accumulated on it very slowly. I avoided using it. But several months ago, I had a mind to check and see how much money was on it and if it was worth using. I went to the website and attempted to register the card using my Social Security number and date of birth. The website told me this information “didn’t match” what they had on file. Well, that’s funny, since I am pretty sure I know what my SSN and birthdate are. I called their customer service line and had a similar experience. The automated system didn’t recognize any of my information. I gave up. The money would just have to sit.

Yesterday, I decided to try again. Same result on the website. Same result on the phone system. This time, however, I was determined to reach a human being and attempt to resolve it.

This is not as easy as it might sound because EPPICard’s system only accepts touch tone inputs (no voice response), and dialing zero doesn’t work. Various paths through the phone system also simply tell you that your input is invalid and then hang up on you. After spending a good twenty minutes or so bouncing around the phone service and getting hung up on, I wanted to see if there was a direct line I could call to reach a person. There isn’t, but I discovered a site called Get Human, which gives you direct lines if they are available, but can also tell you how to navigate a phone system to reach a person. It told me what options to use to reach a human being, and it worked! Yay! My problem will be solved!

Just kidding. After explaining my situation to the customer service representative, she determined that their system could only find my old unemployment card. She could find no record of my child support card, and thus she couldn’t help me. It didn’t matter what information I gave her. So, she tried to transfer me to their level 2 support staff. I thought I might actually get somewhere, but nope. As soon as she transferred me, I got the classic, shrill special information tones, followed by a message that “all circuits are busy.”

It hung up on me.

I called back, spent another few minutes to get to a person again, and explained my situation. Got transferred.

Same error. Same result.

Again. Same result.

I tried one more time. This time, I actually got to a level 2 support person! I explained my problem once again, only to be told that level 2 couldn’t solve it, either. The representative took down my number and said she would log a ticket and I should hear something back within five business days. My problem is not yet solved, but after a couple hours on the phone, I’m hoping I got it to the right person such that something will be done about it.

Of course, I am not desperate to access the money. I can only imagine what it would be like for someone who needs to get to that money right now, and can’t because EPPICard’s system is screwed up. Are people’s kids going hungry because of this? Is rent going unpaid? Bills?

In researching this post, I found a site full of complaints about EPPICard–almost 500 of them. I will quote some of the “highlights.”

The Child Support Division of Texas has started using a new debit card. That’s fine but the last deposit to the old card just disappears and nobody can tell me anything. A deposit was made on the 6th of January. Used card one time. The next morning, the card was declined. I call the only phone number that supposedly exists according to the Attorney General’s office and its a zero balance. So do you have to hire an attorney to get the information needed to file fraudulent charges on this company?

I personally feel like there’s something really really bad going on with this whole company. I have had countless times where I’ve called and then hung up in my face with certain questions like with direct deposit. I have had money missing on my account and no answers to my questions. I’ve asked for a supervisor and have been forwarded to a voicemail that you can’t even leave a message on.

I have been a “customer” for about 7 years now and I’ve always had a problem with getting my money when I should. CSS always takes out the money on Fridays and if there is a holiday or something, I can count on not getting the money for at least the following week, sometimes not until the next payment is due to process.

To be fair, I can’t say I’ve ever had an issue with their customer service representatives, but they do charge you if you call more than once within a given period and that is absurd. The Eppicard is suppose to provide electronic payments from our state. If this were anything else (i.e. a personal savings account) I wouldn’t mind so much. But, this is child support, and how does Eppicard suppose one can support their child(ren) when they are too inept to follow proper payment processing?

I have zero tolerance for negligence, and in researching Eppicard, it appears I’m not alone, by far. After filing for unemployment and funds being released, I now have 8 weeks of compensation on a card I have never received. It took 18 attempts to get to a person. The woman was belligerent, arrogant, and down right rude. I demanded a supervisor so she put me on hold for 22 minutes, then transferred me to another representative, not a supervisor. The second woman was pleasant. She then transferred me to Jennifer, a “supervisor” who was just as rude and belligerent… and even more arrogant than the first woman. “We mailed the card on 12/3/15.” Well, I haven’t received it, nor has ANY mail been lost (amazingly) to my address… ever. Why would this be the first time? Could it be? Of course. But, not buying that concept, especially after seeing the C+ BBB rating and almost 500 complaints just on this site alone.

I could go on–like I said, there are hundreds of these complaints–and they all speak to the same sorts of problems. Not only is the customer service terrible to non-existent, you are charged (on your EPPICard, of course) for attempting to use it. Money shows up late when it shows up at all. Several reviews note that if your card is used fraudulently, you can file a claim to be reimbursed, but the claims are almost always denied. In some cases, even when a claim is granted and your card is credited, it can be reversed yet again.

It’s unclear exactly when EPPICard began having such issues, though it appears it coincides with the purchase of Affiliated Computer Services by Xerox. ACS, which administers EPPICard, was the subject of a recent SEC investigation for propping up its revenue through shady accounting tricks. ACS has been plagued with issues since Xerox purchased it in 2010, and it’s wound up being such a bad deal that Xerox is spinning the company off again. My impression is that ACS is in chaos and financially unstable, which is terrible news for the likely millions of people–most of whom are low-income–who rely on its EPPICard services.

I can’t say I have any sympathy for the company’s troubles. They’re being paid to run this program to serve the people who depend on it; screwing that up so terribly is flatly unacceptable. The states currently using ACS for their child support, alimony, foster care, etc. payments might do well to consider a different, more competent vendor.

As for me, I’m hoping I get that call back. Any day now.

Photo by Neil T

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James
James runs this blog and likes to write about society, culture, politics, science, technology, social justice, and pretty much anything else. Rumor has it people read his posts sometimes.

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Child Support Debit Card Nightmares

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