July 27, 2003 — The V.I. Finance Department hosted a Direct Deposit Expo on Saturday in Sunny Isle Shopping Center. A similar expo was held in the Tutu Park Mall on St. Thomas.
In an attempt to give workers a clear understanding of their options, the department arranged to have representatives of three banks set up booths and give information to the public on the merits of direct deposit and to entice potential clients to open accounts with their particular bank.
Government workers still seem to be resisting the change to direct deposit, as evidenced by the scarcity of people visiting the booths in Saturday. In fact, although three banks were scheduled to take part in the Expo, only Banco Popular and First Bank VI participated; Scotia Bank did not.
A bill signed into law by Gov. Charles W. Turnbull on July 12 requires that effective Jan. 1, 2004 all salary payments will be by direct deposit to the bank of the employee's choice. Paper checks will no longer be issued. However, employees will receive a printed record of the deposit made at the end of each pay period.
According to a statement released earlier, William Belardo, Finance Department payroll director, noted that about half of the approximately 10,000 government workers currently are paid by direct deposit, which the government has offered as an option since 1997. Some of those who continue to be paid by check do not have either a checking or a savings bank account, something they will have to acquire by the end of this year. Belardo estimated that going to all-direct deposit will save the government about $1 per payment in check-processing costs. He said the government issues about 300,000 checks per year.
In Sunny Isle the two banks had on hand direct deposit sign-up sheets, rates and fee schedules, drive thru hours of operation, and the location of convenient ATM machines. They attempted to persuade potential customers to sign on the dotted line by offering free coffee mugs and a chance to win a prize in a raffle. The bank representatives explained their banking procedures and the difference between savings and checking account, and the convenience of direct deposit. They pointed out that with direct deposit, the best advantage is that money is usually deposited in a person's account the night before payday and is available to the customer from 8 a.m. on payday — without the employee having to stand in long lines.
Government employees are encouraged to contact the bank of their choice to set up a direct deposit account. Some banks are making it easier to sign up by encouraging potential customers to call the bank and give some preliminary information over the phone so valuable time will not be wasted during the workday.

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