Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney, co-chair of the Congressional Hellenic Caucus and Ranking Member of the House Financial Services Capital Markets and GSEs Subcommittee, was joined by prominent members of the Greek and financial communities to urge the U.S. to take two key steps to boost Greece’s economy.
Maloney sent a letter to U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen and the heads of two key U.S. federal financial regulators, urging them to work with their counterparts in Greece to find a way to allow for U.S. remittances to reach family and friends in Greece. The Congresswoman also released a letter, co-authored with Hellenic Caucus Co-Chair Rep. Gus Bilirakis, encouraging the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) to explore ways in which it can actively encourage investment in Greece to stimulate economic growth and stability.
Maloney’s efforts follow a meeting she attended on August 6 in Washington D.C. with Greek-American leaders, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, Deputy National Security Advisor for International Economics Caroline Atkinson and Vice President Joe Biden to discuss efforts to assist Greece during its financial crisis. During the meeting, an interministerial committee was established to discuss humanitarian, economic, trade, military, investment and health issues with the Greek government. Meeting participants encouraged the formulation of a reform plan that would make Greece’s debt sustainable and create a path to economic recovery.
The Congresswoman’s sentiments were echoed by those in attendance, including Representatives from Atlantic Bank, New York Businessman John Catsimatidis, LIC Chamber of Commerce President Arthur Rosenfield, Executive Director of the Hellenic Initiative Mark Arey, and Taso Pardalis from the Hellenic American Leadership Council.
“Greece gets over $800 million a year in remittances, but right now that money is just sitting on the sidelines because of the capital controls on Greek banks,” Maloney said. “We need to find a way to get the money into the Greek economy right away, so people can start paying bills, buying groceries and creating jobs. That’s why I’m calling on Secretary Lew, Chair Yellen and other U.S. financial regulatory leaders to work with their Greek counterparts to solve this pressing problem. The U.S. should also take steps to encourage more U.S. business investment in Greece and I’m proud to be working with my Hellenic Caucus Co-Chair, Rep. Gus Bilirakis, on a letter to the Overseas Private Investment Corporation urging it to do whatever it can to support Greece during this financial crisis.”
“Hard working Greek-Americans who have achieved the American dream want nothing more than to help out their families who are struggling during this hard time,” said Assemblymember Simotas. “We should do all that we can to ensure that these remittances reach their intended recipients in a timely manner.”
“As the world gets smaller and the interdependency of our economies grows, it becomes more important to help our allies maintain a robust economic climate. It is important for all our sakes to do what we can to help Greece recover from its current crisis as soon as possible,” said State Senator Michael Gianaris.
During the event, Maloney released two letters aimed at U.S. agencies that could assist Greece. The first is a letter Maloney sent to Treasury Secretary Lew, FDIC Chairman Martin Gruenberg, Comptroller Thomas Curry and Federal Reserve Chair Yellen, urging Treasury and U.S. banking regulators to work with their Greek counterparts to restore the flow of remittances from the U.S. to Greece. Currently, U.S. remittances to Greece are severely restricted due to capital controls on Greek banks. While U.S. banks are able to process these remittances, Greek citizens are often unable to access the full amounts because the banks in Greece are subject to a weekly withdrawal limit. In 2014, Greece received over $800 million in remittances. In a recent phone call with Treasury Assistant Secretary for International Finance Ramin Toloui, the Congresswoman reiterated the need for remittance reform. Toloui expressed appreciation for the Congresswoman bringing the idea to him and indicated that he would look into it and have an answer for her in three weeks.
The second is a letter to the President and CEO of OPIC, Elizabeth Littlefield, requesting the agency’s engagement in Greece to encourage and attract foreign investment. The letter is co-authored by Hellenic Caucus Co-Chair Rep. Bilirakis. Allowing Greece to access private capital facilitated by OPIC would benefit the economy as foreign investment will help expedite Greece’s financial recovery.