Aug. 14, 2015 By Jackie Strawbridge
When Astoria resident Eleftheria Delis tried to send money to her uncle in Greece, to support him during the country’s financial crisis, she hit a roadblock.
“I went to the bank several times … they said we could actually send [money], but we can’t guarantee that he will be able to access it,” she explained.
“This is the only living close relative that I have in Greece, and I want to do something for him and his family. It’s very, very upsetting.”
The problem lies in the repercussions of Greece’s financial crisis. As the country grapples with its severe debt, Greece’s Financial Stability Council has imposed a 60 Euro-per-day limitation, about $67, on bank withdrawals.
This means, in Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney’s words, money sent from the U.S. to friends and family in Greece “is just sitting on the sidelines.”
According to Maloney’s office, Greece receives about $800 million per year in remittances, or money sent from abroad to a home country. But now, with their home nation reeling, many Greek Americans hoping to help family and friends share Delis’ frustration.
In response, Maloney and other Astoria elected officials are calling on the federal government to remove this financial obstacle that many of their constituents face.
Last week, Maloney called on the U.S. Treasury, Federal Reserve and federal financial regulators to find a way for American remittances to be accessed by Greek citizens.
“Remittances are particularly important in times of economic and financial stress, because they can serve as a stabilizing source of income for cash-strapped families,” Maloney wrote. “While the imposition of capital controls has successfully prevented a collapse of the Greek banking system, the €420 per week withdrawal limitation has also caused day-to-day hardships for many Greeks and Greek businesses.”
Maloney’s action has the support of State Sen. Michael Gianaris, Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas, and Councilman Costa Constantinides.
Maloney is also working with a Florida Congressman to identify ways to encourage foreign investment in Greece.
In the meantime, the local Greek community waits.