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One Baltimore post office is offering paycheck-cashing services as part of a pilot program. Here’s how it works.

A Baltimore post office is among four in the country offering new paycheck-cashing services as part of a United States Postal Service pilot program.

It’s part of a plan to increase the financial viability of USPS and assist Americans without access to banking services by offering a government-based alternative to sometimes abusive payday lenders.

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It comes on the heels of widespread criticism of the postal service earlier in the coronavirus pandemic, when service slowdowns made headlines, including in Baltimore. As part of his 10-year plan, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has also slowed delivery times for some first-class mail and raised prices.

The paycheck-cashing program began Sept. 13. Here’s what you need to know:

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Which post office in Baltimore is offering paycheck cashing?

The post office at 900 E. Fayette St. in Jonestown is the only one offering the service so far.

The location was chosen with input from postal service leaders, postal workers union leaders, community leaders and religious leaders, said Sherry McKnight, president of the American Postal Workers Union Local 181.

Three other post offices are also participating in Washington, D.C., Falls Church, Virginia, and the Bronx, New York, said Freda Sauter, spokeswoman for the postal service, in an email.

How does it work?

Using their business or payroll check, customers can purchase a single-use Visa gift card of up to $500. Clerks won’t accept checks over $500 and won’t disburse any cash, Sauter said.

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Are there plans to offer paycheck cashing at more locations?

Hopefully, McKnight said.

“It means that now the customer can basically have a one-stop shop if they are looking for cashing checks, mailing,” she said.

Adding the service to the USPS repertoire doesn’t require much extra training for workers, McKnight said, since window clerks are already trained to handle money orders and other financial services. Workers simply need to be trained to vend the gift cards, she said.

According to Sauter, the pilot program is “an example of how the Postal Service is leveraging its vast retail footprint and resources to innovate.”

“Offering new products and services that are affordable, convenient and secure aligns with the Postal Service’s Delivering for America 10-year plan to achieve financial sustainability and service excellence,” she added.

Postal service officials are planning to expand the pilot to include more locations and services, such as bill-paying services and ATMS, reports The Washington Post.

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