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“Every penny helps,” says a mother of 3 in line for her stimulus check

Crowds of people waiting under tents at TBAS to cash their stimulus checks
Stimulus checks greeted with enthusiasm

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Anticipating a busy day and long lines, the US Post Office in Fagatogo opened early — at 6a.m. yesterday — for tax filers who were getting their stimulus checks through the mail and people showed up very early yesterday to stand in line while it was still dark outside.

Samoa News observed at 5:30a.m a line of customers was already formed in front of the post office while the parking lot was already full, with motorists exiting to look for parking at other locations nearby.  By 6a.m police showed up to control both vehicle and foot traffic.

The postal service put out a notice of opening at 6a.m and that the stimulus checks would be in the mail boxes after 1a.m yesterday. Samoa News was informed by others that a postal employee posted on social media around 9 p.m on Tuesday night that the stimulus checks had been distributed into the mail boxes.

For customers, with mail boxes outside of the main post office building, they were the lucky ones as they didn’t have to wait until the lobby was opened. They showed up in the wee-hours of yesterday morning to check their mail boxes.

ASG Treasurer Malemo L. Tausaga announced last week the distribution of the second round of Economic Impact Payments (EIP) — or stimulus checks, as part of the federal COVID Related Tax Relief Act. 

The first batch, released yesterday, totaled more than $10.08 million for 4,926 checks. This batch was for those who filed taxes between Jan. 1st to Mar. 4th, 2020. (See Samoa News edition Feb. 3rd for details).

For taxpayers without a mailing address on their 2019 tax return, distribution was yesterday at the Treasury’s Disbursing Office at the A.P. Lutali Executive Office Building in Utulei. Two individuals standing in line around 7:15 a.m yesterday told Samoa News that there was already a long line when they showed up around 6:30 a.m.

“It’s free money and everyone can use the money,” said one man, who then asked the Samoa News reporter, “How much are you getting?” (The reporter just smiled and thanked the muscle-man for his time.)

By 7:30 a.m yesterday, there was already a very-long line, through the atrium at the EOB, with people wearing face masks — as mandatory by the governor’s order — but not many were observing social distancing of at least 6 feet between individuals.

“I have so many expenses already planned for this money,” said a woman standing in line at the EOB noting that she is thankful for this financial assistance for her family, which includes three children. “Every penny helps.”

About four other people at the EOB gave similar reactions of how their stimulus checks will be used when asked for comments by Samoa News. Two others said that the money would go towards “some good purchases” for their families.

Also on the ground floor of EOB, the Tax Office was busy, with a stream of residents waiting to file their taxes. They wait on a bench in the EOB until they are called into the office.

The stimulus checks are issued from the ASG account with Territorial Bank of American Samoa that made advance preparation for the release of the checks, by setting up a tent at their two locations — Utulei and Tafuna — for people to wait for their turn to enter the bank.

The  Utulei branch, had around six customers under the tent around 5:30 a.m yesterday and by 7:30a.m the number of people reached more than 20.

Local merchants are hoping for a boost in sales, with the release of the new stimulus checks. Representatives of two stores reached by phone yesterday morning said they are hoping for a “large crowd of buyers” later in the day once people cash their stimulus checks.

Gov. Lemanu Peleti Palepoi Sialega Mauga said last month that “disbursement of $600 per adult and child will bring added relief into the hands of our people and economy.”

With the release of the stimulus checks, traffic in the town area was moving slow at times but generally moving well; and ASG officials credit both the Post Office and TBAS with helping out by opening early.