U.S. Stimulus Checks Sent to Ineligible, Confused Austrians in Europe: 'Those Poor Americans'

The U.S. federal government has sent hundreds of stimulus checks to people in Austria during recent months, prompting confusion among these European recipients who say they were ineligible to receive such funds.

Officials at Austrian banks who processed the checks told local media outlets that the unexpected payments had confused some of their clients who were certain they did not meet the eligibility criteria.

Linz, a 75-year-old retiree in Austria, told local broadcaster ORF that he and his wife both received $1,200 checks with President Donald Trump's name attached to it. They took their checks to the bank and found they were able to cash it. Linz had worked in America for two years in the 1960s, but since returning back he hasn't resided stateside for over half a century.

Congress unanimously approved the coronavirus stimulus checks in March shortly after Trump declared the pandemic a national emergency. Under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, U.S. residents with incomes under $75,000 were provided a one-time payment of $1,200 and married couples with combined incomes of under $150,000 were allocated $2,400. Separate payments of $500 were also allowed for each eligible dependent under the age of 17.

Manfred Barnreiter, 73, and his wife were also both mistakenly sent $1,200 checks by the U.S. federal government this year. Neither were citizens of the U.S., however, similar to Linz, Barnreiter also worked in America for a short amount of time in the 1960s.

The pensioner told ORF that the unexpected checks prompted him to believe that he had become victim to a fraud scheme. "We quietly went to the bank," he said. "Three days later, we had the money in our bank account."

Barnreiter admitted that he was hesitant to cash the mistaken payment but figured the amount was "peanuts" to make any difference. "Initially, I felt bad, thinking, 'Those poor Americans, maybe they need the money more urgently than we do here in Europe,'" he said.

Banks across Austria have confirmed that they have been asked to process hundreds of U.S. stimulus checks, however, it is unclear exactly how many were sent erroneously.

Newsweek reached out to the U.S. Treasury Department for comment. This story will be updated with any response.

Other countries have also reported similar occurrences of U.S. stimulus checks mailed by mistake to ineligible recipients during the first round of payments. According to NPR, thousands of individuals across 129 countries, who once entered America on a working visa, had been cashing the checks and spending it in their home countries.

Meanwhile, Americans are still waiting for the much-needed second round of checks to be passed by Congress as the global coronavirus pandemic continues through September without an approved vaccine.

In August, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said he could send a second round of direct payments to Americans right away but lawmakers need to pass an economic relief bill first.

Trump stimulus
US President Donald Trump signs executive orders extending coronavirus economic relief, during a news conference in Bedminster, New Jersey, on August 8, 2020. Jim Watson/Getty