U.S. Bank to send nearly $6 million to consumers


The bank made serious errors during the pandemic related to unemployment checks

Lose your job during the pandemic? Have an account at U.S. Bank? The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has some potentially good news for you.

It seems that U.S. Bank – like Bank of America before them – was a little too chilly with tens of thousands of accounts that had unemployment checks direct deposited during the COVID-19 shutdown, freezing many of those accounts, not to mention failing to provide provisional account credits. 

And, now, the bank will pay and pay dearly for doing that. The CFPB has ordered U.S. Bank to pay nearly $21 million for keeping out-of-work consumers from accessing unemployment benefits – $5.7 million of that going directly to consumers harmed by its actions.

Separately, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) fined United States Bank $15 million. The CFPB and OCC coordinated during their investigations into U.S. Bank’s illegal conduct.

“At a time when unemployment was close to 15%, many out-of-work Americans throughout the country had little choice but to rely on U.S. Bank for their unemployment benefits. U.S. Bank blocked access to accounts and demanded burdensome paperwork in order for consumers to regain access to their frozen benefits," said CFPB Director Rohit Chopra.

“U.S. Bank must comply with the law, and the CFPB and OCC are making the bank pay for its conduct.”

This is what should happen for affected U.S. Bank customers

According to the order, “Affected Consumers” includes anyone who from August 1, 2020 through March 31, 2021:

(1) qualified for and received government unemployment insurance benefit payments electronically through ReliaCard Prepaid Debit Cards; 

(2) for whom Respondent froze the consumers’ ReliaCard Prepaid Debit Card Accounts; 

(3) for whom Respondent failed to provide adequate means to verify their identities and timely regain access to their government benefits; and 

(4) whose unemployment insurance benefit payments were not returned to a state due to a state’s determination that the consumer should have been initially disqualified for unemployment insurance benefit payments. 

Figuring out what else COULD take place, though, might require those customers asking questions.  The CFPB says that in evaluating what each person is supposed to receive, U.S. Bank will “calculate the lump sum Consequential Harm payment, [as well as] evaluate affected consumers for additional or supplemental redress compensation due to evidence of financial harm exceeding consequential harm-related payments.”

The short version is that those consumers could get more than just the amount of the unemployment benefit checks in question.

Once U.S. Bank gets all those things taken care of, it is supposed to mail payments to those affected. If you have moved since 2021 and/or no longer a bank customer, it might be wise to contact U.S. Bank’s legal department and let them know so they send the check to you at your correct address.

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