Hundreds of senior citizens stood in line in the scorching sun outside of Schneider Regional Medical Center Wednesday on St. Thomas in a bid to collect $500 Social Security stipend checks the V.I. government is distributing as part of the pandemic American Rescue Plan Act.
The hospital parking lot was packed, and traffic tied up all around, with many seniors left to park on surrounding streets or at the adjacent post office and traverse the uneven terrain — canes in hand — to their destination, only to wait for ages in line in the hot sun.
The scene was duplicated on St. Croix, and on Wednesday afternoon Government House issued a press release stating that the Office of Management and Budget has suspended issuing the checks this week on the big island. Distribution will resume with a drive-through process that will take place from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, Nov. 14-18, at the Sunshine Mall.
Government House Communications Director Richard Motta agreed the experience wasn’t smooth when contacted by the Source, and reminded seniors that Wednesday is not the only day they can collect their checks, and there is a mail option.
“We absolutely did not want to inconvenience our seniors or make them wait as they did this morning,” said Motta, who was on St. Croix to help with the line that formed at the Viya building in Estate Diamond. “We knew it was important to get these stipends distributed as quickly as possible, so we did not want to delay, but understand that the experience wasn’t smooth,” he said.
“We want to remind our recipients that checks can be picked up through next week or they can just send us a quick email so that we can get the information needed to send them by mail,” said Motta.
On St. Thomas, OMB will extend distribution through next week, Nov. 14-18, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the hospital, according to Government House. On St. John, checks are available for pick-up at the island administrator’s office.
The funds, meant to help households respond to the negative economic impacts of the pandemic, come after a months-long process during which the V.I. government worked to resolve issues with addresses provided by the Social Security Administration for Social Security recipients in the territory, according to Government House.
The $500 payments are being issued to Social Security recipients who are seniors or who are on disability. Recipients are required to present a valid picture ID to receive the stipend.
Individuals who cannot physically pick up their checks in person can have the check mailed by sending an email to OMB at firstname.lastname@example.org and provide the agency with the following information:
– Last four digits of their Social Security number
– Phone number
– Correct address
After providing OMB with that information, arrangements will be made to have the checks mailed, according to Government House.
Clearly VI Gov didn’t anticipate the level of response yesterday. What did they expect? Are they going to be better prepared next week?
Asking for information by email to mail a check sounds good in theory, but – news flash! – EMAIL IS NOT SECURE! You might as well put in the email your mother’s maiden name, the street you grew up on, where you met your spouse, your first car, and the name of your first pet while you are at it! Whose brilliant idea was this? Sending that stuff in an email is just inviting identity theft. A secure web page would have been much safer. 🤦