Americans waiting for the stimulus checks now have one more reason to worry. There are already reports that another round of direct payments is unlikely. Now, it is being reported that hundreds of Austrians got U.S. coronavirus stimulus checks despite being ineligible.
Many of the Austrians who got the coronavirus stimulus checks were confused as to why they got the payment. Some even thought it to be some kind of a scam, according to The Washington Post.
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“People initially thought it's a treacherous form of fraud — but the checks were real," Austria's Oberbank told The Post.
The Austrian banks that processed these checks told local media that their clients were puzzled because of these unexpected payments as they were certain that they didn’t meet the eligibility criteria.
One such Austrian who got the payment was Manfred Barnreiter, 73. The only connection Barnreiter had with the U.S. was that he briefly worked in the country in the 1960s. Barnreiter and his wife got full $1,200 checks each despite neither being citizens of the U.S. or live there.
“We quietly went to the bank … where we were told they’ll see if it’s real,” Barnreiter told Austrian public broadcaster ORF. “Three days later, we had the money in our bank account.
Barnreiter admitted that he was initially hesitant to cash the payment for which he was not eligible. But, eventually went for it as the amount was "peanuts," overall. He, however, plans to spend the money in the U.S. when he is able to visit again.
How many checks went to foreigners?
This mistake with the coronavirus stimulus checks has been reported by people in many other countries as well. Officials, however, attributed this mistake to likely errors in tax returns.
Last month, NPR first reported that thousands of foreigners, who had worked in the U.S., have mistakenly gotten the stimulus checks. As per the report, people in 129 countries, who have been in the U.S. on a work visa, had cashed the U.S. stimulus checks.
It is not known how many of the U.S. checks were cashed by foreigners. According to The Post, the total amount represents a “small fraction” of the $2.2 trillion CARES Act.
As of Wednesday, three Austrian bank branches said they had cashed about 200 U.S. stimulus checks. However, the banks were unable to tell how many of those recipients were not eligible for the stimulus payment.
Such reports of Austrians and people of other countries getting coronavirus stimulus checks will surely add to the frustration of Americans, who have been waiting for the much-needed payment for the past few months.
Despite the wait, there is no surety of another round of stimulus checks. Amid the stalemate over the next relief package, the Senate, on Tuesday, came up with a slimmed-down proposal that does not include stimulus checks.