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EXPEDITING AID

FEMA to end debit card distribution to victims

WASHINGTON -- The federal government's relief agency said yesterday that it will discontinue its program to distribute debit cards worth up to $2,000 to hurricane victims, two days after announcing the novel plan.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency said it will scrap the program once officials finish distributing cards this weekend at shelters in Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio. No cards will be issued to victims in other states.

Hurricane victims at other locations will have to apply for expedited aid through the agency's traditional route -- filling out information on its website to receive direct bank deposits, said Natalie Rule, spokeswoman for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

''We tried it as an innovative way to get aid to evacuee populations in Texas. We decided it would be more expeditious with direct deposits," she said, citing the large staffing operation that would be required to replicate the Texas operation in other states.

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