updated 9/2/2004 1:34:17 PM ET 2004-09-02T17:34:17

With Hurricane Frances bearing down on Florida, the Treasury Department was urging banks in the state Thursday to let certain customers draw on their Social Security benefit checks a day ahead of time.

The department’s request covers only people who currently have their monthly Social Security benefits deposited directly into their bank accounts. Banks can’t speed up benefits to those who receive their checks in the mail.

Those direct payments were scheduled for deposit into people’s accounts on Friday, the department said. Treasury said it was working with the Florida Bankers Association to get banks in the state to recognize those benefit payments on Thursday, allowing people to tap them if needed.

Treasury said that “several” Florida financial institutions have responded to the request. The department didn’t name those institutions or provide a number of people at those institutions who would be affected.

“I thank these financial institutions for their efforts to aid Florida’s citizens in this time of need,” said Treasury Secretary John Snow.

The department didn’t say how many people in Florida currently receive Social Security checks via direct deposit. A spokeswoman didn’t know if similar action had been taken in the past.

More than a million coastal residents were ordered to evacuate as Florida braced for Hurricane Frances, which could be the mightiest storm to hit the state in a decade.

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