Greece relies on more than $800 million in remittances each year, yet recent capital controls at Greek banks have blocked access to those funds
NEW YORK—Today, Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (NY-12), co-chair of the Congressional Hellenic Caucus and Ranking Member of the House Financial Services Capital Markets and GSEs Subcommittee, was joined by prominent members of the Greek and financial communities to announce her recommendations to allow U.S. persons to transmit funds to family and friends in Greece.
The recommendations are:
1. Send remittances through foreign-owned banks. If you are in Greece and have a bank account with a foreign-owned bank, remittances sent to that account will not be subject to the capital controls.
2. Send remittances via the retail offices of foreign-owned money transfer companies in Greece. There are a number of money transfer companies with retail locations throughout Greece that offer such services.
Maloney discussed options for sending remittances with the U.S. Treasury Department after requesting the Department’s assistance with the remittances problem in early August. On Monday, Maloney spoke with Treasury Assistant Secretary for International Finance Ramin Toloui, who described the available options.
“I’m very pleased that the U.S. Treasury Department has helped to develop these two recommendations, [in response to my concerns,] for getting much needed remittances to family and friends in Greece, without this money being subject to capital controls,” Congresswoman Maloney said. “Greece is suffering through a terrible economic and financial crisis and international remittances are one of the most important sources of capital to the Greek people. With these two new avenues for sending remittances to friends and family in Greece, I’m hopeful that this essential assistance will flow more freely. I will also continue doing everything I can to support the people of Greece during this difficult time, including urging the U.S. to do what it can to support economic growth in Greece and pushing the E.U. to allow Greece’s economy time to grow through extended debt payment terms. ”
The Congresswoman was joined by Council Member Costa Constantinides, Assemblymember Aravella Simotas, President of Atlantic Bank Nancy Papaioannou, member of the Hellenic American Leadership Council Nikolas Katsimpras, Director of St. Demetrios Cathedral of Astoria Harry Kalas , Bill Tentolouris from Mediterranean Foods Inc. Petros Galatoulas from the Federation of Hellenic Societies of Greater New York, Andrew Latos from Latos Latos & Associates PC, Ilias Psarros from UTOG 2 Way Inc., Dimitris and Athanasios Petridis from Gyro World Inc., President of Jekmar Associates and Chairman of the Construction & Engineering Committee of Hellenic American Chamber of Commerce Lou Katsos, Voula Aravidis frin Anise Restaurant, Theodoros Ermogenous, Retail Banking Regional Executive John Careddu, Director, Retail Banking John Fennell, and Director, Retail Banking Employee Management Salvatore Spano.
Council Member Costa Constantinides said, “The U.S. must do our part to support the people of Greece, especially during this time of need. Our Greek-American community has provided economic support to friends and family in Greece, who rely on $800 million in remittances per year. I am glad to see that the U.S. Treasury Department has found ways that we can send remittances to Greece, which will that funds could be properly withdrawn, and help create a path to economic collaboration. I applaud Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney for fighting for the Greek community and all of her efforts to assist Greece.”
“Hardworking Greek-Americans who have achieved the American dream want nothing more than to help out their families who are struggling during this hard time,”Assemblymember Simotas said. “I am grateful to Congresswoman Maloney for taking the lead on this issue and for providing relief to those struggling to get much needed funds into the right hands.”
John Catsimatidis said, “I often say ‘Congresswoman Maloney is the hardest working member of Congress’ and today she proved my point. Just a week ago, Congresswoman Maloney laid out the problem our fellow, hardworking Greeks were facing at home. Banks and other institutions were sitting on funds sent from the United States and doling it out in such small portions it was impossible for ordinary Greeks to pay rent and buy food. Today Congresswoman Maloney’s hard work with the Treasury Department here in the United States has devised alternate routes to send funds to our friends and relatives which reaches them in full value. As a Greek American, as an American, I have nothing but praise for the Congresswoman and am proud once again to call her my representative in Congress.”
Background on Remittances and Timeline of Maloney’s Efforts
Remittances, which are generally transfers of money from one country to another, have long been utilized by migrant communities to send money to family and friends in their home country. Although currently the funds are able to reach Greece from the U.S., an issue arises when Greek residents try to access the funds due to the weekly withdrawal limit imposed on Greek banks. This limit has been imposed during the current Greek financial crisis to prevent the country’s banks from collapsing in a disorderly and chaotic fashion.
August 6, 2015 – Maloney attended on a meeting at the White House. with Greek-American Leaders, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, Deputy National Security Advisor for International Economics Caroline Atkinson, and Vice President Joe Biden to discuss efforts to assist Greece during its financial crisis. During the meeting an interministerial committee was established to discuss humanitarian, economic, trade, military, investment, and health issues with the Greek government. Meeting participants encouraged the formulation of a reform plan that would make the debt sustainable and create a path to economic recovery.
August XX, 2015, Maloney has phone call with U.S. Treasury Assistant Secretary for International Finance Ramin Toloui, and the Congresswoman reiterated the need for remittance reform. Toloui expressed appreciation for the Congresswoman raising the issue, and indicated that he would look into it and have an answer for her in three weeks.
August 13, 2015 – Maloney sends letter to U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, and the heads of two key U.S. federal financial regulators urging them to work with their counterparts in Greece to find a way to allow for U.S. remittances to reach family and friends in Greece.
August 31, 2015 – Maloney discusses options with Assistant Secretary for International Finance Ramin Toloui.