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First a check, now a presidential letter–Japanese seniors confused

  • May 25, 2021
  • , Asahi , p. 27
  • JMH Translation

The Japanese retirees who previously received U.S. government COVID-19 stimulus checks by mistake are now receiving from President Joe Biden a letter urging them to make sure that they don’t miss the benefit. The letters, as well as the checks, were mistakenly sent to those who are not eligible for the benefit and are further confusing the recipients.


On May 19, an 86-year-old man, who lives in Tokyo’s Shinjuku Ward, received a one-page letter written in English from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The letter was signed by President Biden.


“Why did I receive a letter from the U.S. President?” Then he remembered the checks for 1,400 dollars (about 150,000 yen) that he and his wife had received in April and May.


When the checks arrived, he searched the Internet and found that they were COVID-19 stimulus checks.


The President’s letter was addressed to U.S. citizens and explained the purpose of the check. The letter instructed the recipient to contact the IRS in case the check doesn’t arrive within a week of the receipt of the letter.


He has kept the check without taking an action because his bank told him that the checks were probably meant for U.S. citizens. Now he is wondering how to respond to the instruction given in the letter.


Another man, who lives in Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture, received the stimulus check in April and the letter on May 19. “I was surprised to receive the check. Now I received a letter from the President. It’s not really clear to me what’s going on, so I will just hold on to both of them for the time being,” he says.


“The letter is part of the U.S. government public relations initiative,” says Ichikawa Shunji, who leads the Nenkin Support Center. “They are likely being sent to people who should have received the check to make sure those eligible receive the benefit without fail.” He is concerned that “the letter may mislead people who are not eligible into believing that they are the legitimate recipients of the benefit.” (Abridged)

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