California lawmakers want answers to their middle-class tax refund debit card woes

Some California lawmakers confirmed what KCRA 3 Investigates first reported last week: Several people have complaints and concerns of fraud using debit cards for mid-tier tax refunds in the state. | Related | California taxpayers still see issues with tax refund debit cards “This has become an embarrassing routine for the state of California,” said Republican Assemblyman Jim Patterson, who said he heard similar complaints from many community members in his Fresno-area district. Patterson said the situation is reminiscent of the issues with the state’s beleaguered unemployment agency, the Employment Development Administration, when the state sent billions of dollars to fraudsters during the pandemic. KCRA 3 investigated in detail the scale of the fraud in the “Easy Money” documentary. Patterson said he and other lawmakers have heard from voters who told them they received a debit card but when they try to use it at an ATM, they have a $0 balance. Patterson said the state’s Franchise Tax Board — the agency that oversees the distribution of refunds — and the debit card seller, New York-based Money Network, are not providing answers. “We have a one-time program that mails debit cards to millions of people, which really originated from California. What could go wrong?” Senator Roger Nello said sarcastically. Nilo, a Republican who represents parts of the Sacramento and Roseville area and was sworn in two weeks ago, said he, too, is picking up on voter complaints. “What is Murphy’s Law? Anything can go wrong, can it?” Nilo said. | RELATED | California Inflation Relief: More middle-class tax refund debit cards hitting the mailboxes. Middle-class tax refunds are a multibillion-dollar program endorsed by state lawmakers and the governor, which was intended to offer payments to taxpayers based on household size and income in response to rising gas prices and inflation.|RELATED|California inflation relief debit cards are supposed to contain chip technology.So why not About 6.9 million eligible recipients received their payments through direct deposit, while another 6.8 million were sent with debit cards, according to the state’s latest data.Gov. Gavin Newsom promised payment for the first time in his state address in March.Legislative leaders agreed Democrats have argued that taxpayers should get relief from the state’s historic budget surplus of nearly $100 billion, but lawmakers and the governor have spent months wrangling over exactly how to send the payments. The reason why some seniors and others are not getting payments from California’s “inflation relief” programs Legislative leaders originally wanted to send payments the traditional way through deposits and checks through the California Franchise Tax Board (FTB), the agency responsible for collecting and administering the state Income tax. The governor suggested sending debit cards to vehicle owners registered through the state motor vehicle department. Newsom’s management said issuing debit cards would be faster than cutting checks. “I’m skeptical that you can even choose a reliable debit card vendor in a couple of months,” Assemblyman Phil Tyng, D-San Francisco, told the Newsom administration at a budget hearing in June. “We agree: we want to get the money out as quickly as possible, but we want it out in a safe and reliable way.” Related | Read the revised contract for the debit cards here. Ting’s office did not respond to a request for comment for this story as of Tuesday evening. At the same hearing, Assemblywoman Wendy Carrillo, a Los Angeles Democrat, cited concerns about potential fraud. “Whichever vendor you end up with, I want to make sure there is transparency in how that vendor is selected,” Carrillo told Newsom’s management in June. “We don’t find ourselves in that position a year from now when we go over what happened and how it happened; it just happened too often.” In a statement Tuesday night, Carrillo told KCRA 3, “During the commission process, concerns about fraud were expressed. We’ve learned a lot during the COVID-19 pandemic about the need to stabilize the safety net and ensure that departments like EDD, are working to meet “The needs of struggling Californians. Through the budget process, and in my role as Chief of the Sub-4 Budget for the State Department, I expect that we will have oversight hearings to address implementation and impact. The ultimate goal is to make sure the funds are allocated and reach the right people.” Democratic legislative leaders, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon and Senate Pro Team Tony Atkins, were not available for comment on Tuesday. There was no indication that fraud was a widespread problem in the program, the FTB said in an update from Money Network on Tuesday. “We continue to anticipate the potential for fraud breakdowns or other irregularities,” an FTB spokesperson said. “The FTB contract with Money Network requires the seller to maintain a fraud prevention success rate of 99% or higher. The current level of fraud is within contract limits,” an FTB spokesperson said. What to do if a mid-grade tax refund debit card has been drained Attorneys have encouraged anyone with issues with a refund debit card to contact a senator or assembly member.The ISE Tax Board says chat support services are available at mctrpayment.com weekdays, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Customer support phone number is 800-542-9332 and operates weekdays, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. | More inflation relief tips | Got a mid-tier California tax refund debit card? Here’s how Use it and avoid fees

Some California lawmakers confirmed what KCRA 3 Investigates first reported last week: Several people have complaints and concerns of fraud using debit cards for mid-tier tax refunds in the state.

| Related | California taxpayers continue to see issues with tax refund debit cards

“This has become an embarrassing routine for the state of California,” said Republican Assemblyman Jim Patterson, who said he heard similar complaints from many community members in his Fresno-area district.

Patterson said the situation is reminiscent of the issues with the state’s beleaguered unemployment agency, the Employment Development Administration, when the state sent billions of dollars to fraudsters during the pandemic. KCRA 3 investigated in detail the scale of the fraud in the “Easy Money” documentary.

Patterson said he and other lawmakers have heard from voters who told them they received a debit card but when they try to use it at an ATM, they have a $0 balance. Patterson said the state’s Franchise Tax Board — the agency that oversees the distribution of refunds — and the debit card seller, New York-based Money Network, are not providing answers.

“We have a one-time program that mails debit cards to millions of people, which really originated from California. What could go wrong?” Senator Roger Nello said sarcastically.

Nilo, a Republican representing parts of Sacramento and Roseville County, who was sworn in two weeks ago, said he, too, is picking up on voter complaints.

“What is Murphy’s Law? Anything can go wrong, right? It looks like that’s exactly what happened,” Nilo said.

| Related | California Inflation Ease: More mid-tier tax refund cards are hitting the mailboxes

The Middle Class Tax Refund is a multibillion-dollar program approved by state lawmakers and the governor that was intended to provide payments to taxpayers based on family size and income in response to soaring gas prices and inflation.

| Related | California inflation relief debit cards are supposed to contain chip technology. Why don’t they?

About 6.9 million eligible recipients received their payments through direct deposit, while another 6.8 million were sent with debit cards, according to the latest state data.

Gov. Gavin Newsom promised the payment for the first time in his state address in March. Democratic legislative leaders have agreed that taxpayers should get relief from the state’s historic budget surplus of nearly $100 billion, but lawmakers and the governor have spent months wrangling over exactly how to send the payments.

| Related | Here’s why some seniors and others don’t get payments from California’s “inflation relief” programs

Legislative leaders originally wanted to send payments the traditional way through deposits and checks through the California Franchise Tax Board (FTB), the agency responsible for collecting and administering state income tax. The governor suggested sending debit cards to vehicle owners registered through the state motor vehicle department. Newsom’s management said issuing debit cards would be faster than cutting checks.

“I’m skeptical that you can even choose a reliable debit card vendor in a couple of months,” Assemblyman Phil Tyng, D-San Francisco, told the Newsom administration at a budget hearing in June. “We agree: we want to get the money out as quickly as possible, but we want it out in a safe and reliable way.”

| Related | Read the revised contract for the debit cards here

Ting’s office did not respond to a request for comment for this story as of Tuesday evening.

At the same hearing, Assemblywoman Wendy Carrillo, a Los Angeles Democrat, cited concerns about potential fraud.

“Whichever vendor you end up with, I want to make sure there is transparency in how that vendor is selected,” Carrillo told Newsom’s management in June. “[That way] We don’t find ourselves in this situation a year from now when we review what happened and how it happened; It happened way too often.”

In a statement Tuesday night, Carrillo told KCRA 3, “During the commission process, concerns about fraud were expressed. We’ve learned a lot during the COVID-19 pandemic about the need to stabilize the safety net and ensure that departments like EDD, are working to meet “The needs of struggling Californians. Through the budget process, and in my role as Chief of the Sub-4 Budget for the State Department, I expect that we will have oversight hearings to address implementation and impact. The ultimate goal is to make sure the funds are allocated and reach the right people.”

The Democratic legislative leaders, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, and Senate pro-Tempor Tony Atkins could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.

There was no indication that fraud was a widespread problem with the program, FTB said in an update from Money Network Tuesday.

An FTB spokesperson said: “We continue to monitor the situation closely – investigating any anomalies or irregularities, and ensuring that beneficiaries receive the benefits for which they are eligible.”

FTB said it anticipated the possibility of crashes, fraud or other wrongdoing. The FTB contract with Money Network requires the seller to maintain a fraud prevention success rate of 99% or higher. A spokesperson for the agency said the current level of fraud was within contract limits.

What to do if your mid-tier tax refund debit card is drained

Lawmakers encouraged anyone with issues with a refunded debit card to contact their senator or assembly.

The Franchise Tax Board says chat support services are available at mctrpayment.com
Weekdays, 8 am to 5 pm.

The customer support phone number is 800-542-9332 and operates weekdays, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

| More Inflation Relief Tips | Did you get a mid-tier California tax refund deduction card? Here’s how to use it, and avoid the fees

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