By Onz Chery | onz@haitiantimes.com

Residents waiting on line to enter a Citibank in New York. Photo by Garry Pierre-Pierre for The Haitian Times

Elder Lauture, a security guard from The Bronx, first checked his bank account around 11:30 a.m. while on break at work Wednesday. 

His stimulus check hadn’t come through yet. He checked again while riding the bus through The Bronx on his way home. This time, Lauture’s balance was higher, $1,400 higher.

The House of Representatives and Senate approved the $2 trillion coronavirus relief bill, which President Joe Biden signed into a law last Thursday. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) started distributing it over the weekend, prompting people across the country to constantly check their bank accounts and countless memes about the wait for the bonanza. 

But Wednesday was the day most residents finally received the stimulus check, with deposits going into about 90 million people’s bank accounts. In addition to the direct deposits, 150,000 checks amounting to $442 million will be sent via mail on Friday.

For many, the money is a lifeline for critical essentials like food and shelter or to catch up on bills, while others see it as a bonus.

For Lauture, the stimulus check is a chance to finally buy the $1,800 Apple laptop he’s been wanting to get since 2018.

“If I get the laptop, I’m giving my mom my old laptop,” Lauture, 28, said. “I don’t know, maybe I don’t need it now. But a laptop is still good. I want to put my money to good use.”

Scores of Haitian-American residents are in Lauture’s shoes as they ponder on what to do with their stimulus checks. Some are thinking of investing or planning to take some time off work to focus on side projects.

Filmmaker Patrick Ulysse, of Brooklyn, said he took a nine-month hiatus from screenwriting when the pandemic was at its peak as he focused on being safe. With his stimulus check as a buffer, the married father-of-one plans to take a week off from his camera operator job to finish writing a Haitian-American feature film about food and love.

Camera operator and filmmaker Patrick Ulysse. Photo courtesy of Patrick Ulysse

Ulysse, 50, has been employed throughout the entire pandemic thus far at the mayor’s department but his income from freelance videography was cut to about 10 percent of its pre-pandemic level.

“Things are tight, I paid the bills, that’s all that could be done,” Ulysse said. “The stimulus checks allow us to do normal stuff, the stuff we missed, like being able to not have to work overtime, not thinking about scaling down on the groceries, not having to worry about the mortgage.”

Claude Craan, from West Orange, New Jersey, said he also felt the financial burden that COVID-19 brought.

“The economy has not been going at its best. The stimulus is more than welcome. It’s a blessing in many ways, not just for myself,” Craan, 62, said. “Everybody’s behind, I plan on using it to pay some bills. No entertainment stuff.”

Email me at onz@haitiantimes.com
Onz Chery started his journalism career as a City College of New York student with The Campus. He later wrote for First Touch, local soccer leagues in New York and ESNY before joining The Haitian Times. Onz is also a Report for America corps member.

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