ASTORIA – On September 2, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney held a press conference outside the Ditmars Avenue branch of Atlantic Bank to announce some pragmatic solutions to the difficulties people in Greece were having accessing funds sent to them by Greek-Americans.
“Greece relies on more than $800 million in remittances each year, yet recent capital controls at Greek banks have blocked access to those funds,” Maloney said.
TNH reported in July on the frustrations of Greek-Americans trying to help their families, spotlighting the case of John Korovezos.
Maloney was joined by prominent members of the Greek and financial communities as well as NYS Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas and City Councilman Costas Constantinides to announce her recommendations to allow funds from the U.S. to reach family and friends in Greece.
Maloney requested the U.S. Treasury Department’s assistance.
Maloney’s recommendations are:
1) Send remittances through foreign-owned banks.
2) Send remittances via the retail offices of foreign-owned money transfer companies in Greece, including Western Union and Money Gram.
3) Relatives and friends who want to send money can open accounts with American banks
At this time, HSBC is the only bank in America with branches in Greece. The members of the community responded with enthusiasm, however, to Maloney’s suggestion that this is a good time for Atlantic Bank to open branches there.
Atlantic’s President Nancy Papaioannou hosted the gathering and told TNH that as a commercial bank, Atlantic can open accounts for people all over the country.
Maloney insists that an exception must be made for the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) to help Greece, a vital and loyal ally in crisis, even if it doesn’t meet OPIC’s criteria to help developing countries only.
Simotas said that Maloney demonstrated once more that she has earned the nickname “Bouboulina” – the heroine of Greece’s War of Independence.
Constantinides also expressed the community’s appreciation for Maloney’s efforts and her dynamic support.
Lou Katsos, who represented the Hellenic American Chamber of Commerce (HACC), which Papaioannou heads, was among those who described the negative effects of the capital controls – harm to individuals, and the economic activity.
He also thanked the non-Greek reporters and explained the importance of combatting the negative stereotypes that are being presented about Hellenes worldwide and in the U.S.
Petros Galatoulas, President of the Federation of Hellenic Societies of Greater New York, also thanked Maloney and spoke briefly about the dubious conditions under which Greeks have been made to bear the burden of their nation’s debt.
Nikolas Katsimpras a lecturer at Columbia University and board member of the Hellenic American Leadership Council emphasized the importance of keeping the community informed about the situation in Greece. He recently returned from Greece and urged everyone to care to visit Greece soon, both for its beauty, and to help Greece emerge from the crisis.