Let’s assume that the United States does issue stimulus payments to all American citizens. Take it a step further and assume that they remember that there are Americans living abroad and include us. Whatever the amount may be, they cut checks. This is where the very thought of government money causes me anxiety.
To be clear, I’m not looking for money. It’s always nice to get some extra cash, and there are several ways we could put it to good use, but we’ll manage without it. I honestly expect them to find reasons to exclude expats while swearing up, down, and sideways that they aren’t. It also wouldn’t surprise me if they do the same thing they do with tax returns, and confiscate the stimulus payments and apply them to student loans. Because, you know, people are out of work and can’t pay their rent, but at least the banks are taken care of.
While I don’t know what the postal situation is in the United States is right now, or will be in the near future, I know that things here are pretty messed up. There are rumors that Posti, the Finnish postal service, might cut down on delivery days. The mail is going to be slow all over Europe. Packages that normally take a few days to arrive have taken as long as three weeks. How long will a check mailed from the US take to get here? A month, maybe?
Government Money Causes Me Anxiety
Anyway, say we actually get a check. Great. No one here uses checks. Every person is able to get at least a basic bank account. Every employer here uses direct deposit. Seriously, unless you’re illegally getting paid cash under the table, your employer puts your pay right into your account. There is a standard, called IBAN, that allows people to send each other money without Paypal, CashApp, or other third-parties. I could move money from my bank account to yours, usually with no fees.
So because no one uses checks, there’s no “deposit” option at automatic teller machines. There are no drop slots outside bank buildings. You need to go into a physical bank, to a real live teller, in order to deposit a check. After they’ve looked at you like you tried to pass Confederate greybacks, you’ll be informed that it will take a long, long time for the check to clear and funds to be available. Based on things other people have told me, it could be 2 to 4 weeks.
But wait, there’s more! Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all of the banks are closed. There are signs up advising people to use electronic services on the website. In the event you need to speak to a real, live person, you need to call and make an appointment. Given the state of things, who knows how far out the next appointment might be.
Systems Normal All Fouled Up
See, if the Finnish government was doing a stimulus payment — and they might, for citizens — it would go directly into your account. The same way they issue tax refunds. No hassle. No fuss. It would just be there one day, with on delays, no need to jump through hoops, no reason to have to go out into the world and meet with anyone face-to-face and risk exposure.
I truly do not believe that Katie and I will get any stimulus money from the American government, and I almost think it would be better not to. Having more cash would be great, but I wonder if some extra money is worth the stress it’s likely to put on my mental health.