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That's a nice Christmas gift. Ketchikan waits anxiously each year about this time, just like the kids do for Christmas morning, to discover what the next cruise ship schedule looks like.

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Phillip Dean Nehl, 59, died Dec. 10, 2014, in Ketchikan after a long battle with heart failure.
David Jmmanuel (Keith Gustaf Dahl), 50, died Oct. 28, 2014, suddenly of natural causes at home in Ketchikan.
Frank Chester Leask, 76, died Dec. 9, 2014, in Metlakatla.
1/11/2013
No more checks

It is now less than two months until federal benefit checks cease to exist and payments all will be made electronically rather than by mail. March 1 is the date set for all payments to be electronic.

More than 7,000 Alaskans still receive Social Security and Supplemental Security Income check each month, according to the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Financial Management Service.

The Treasury wants Social Security recipients and others who get federal benefits to switch immediately to one of two alternatives.

The first is direct deposit, whereby the government sends the money directly to the recipient’s bank account.

The other is to funnel the payments through a Direct Express Debit MasterCard. This is a prepaid debit card recommended by the Treasury Department for those who do not want funds directed to a bank account. According to the department’s information, the card has no sign-up fee, monthly account fee or overdraft fee. No credit check is required. The card has a number of free services, including cash withdrawals through bank or credit union tellers. There is a free ATM cash withdrawal for each deposit posted to an account each month at surcharge-free ATMs.

We are pleased that such an option is offered because citizens should not be required to open a bank account to get benefits to which they are entitled. This option avoids that.

But there will be no keeping the paper checks; the law requires that the deposits be electronic starting March 1, so beneficiaries need to make the transition.

Best to do so sooner rather than at the last minute.

They can make the change online at www.GoDirect.org. For those who have Internet access, the change can be made by telephone by calling 1-800-333-1795. The Treasury Department says the transfer can be made in a single call if callers have gathered the needed information:

• Their Social Security number or claim number;

• Their 12-digit federal benefit check number;

• The amount of their most recent federal benefit check; and

• If choosing direct deposit, their financial institution’s routing transit number, account number, and account type (checking or savings)

Time flies; March 1 will arrive sooner than we think. Sooner than it did in 2012 — this year, we don’t have any Feb. 29.

The time is now to make the transition.