In brief

  • New Yorkers wanting to get unemployment benefits can do so—but via a bank that only has one branch in the entire city.
  • This is leading to a hideous line.
  • Could crypto help?

The crippling effect the coronavirus is having on the US economy is evident from one thing: an absurdly long ATM line. 

According to a New York Times report yesterday, lines for one Manhattan ATM can take up to two-and-a-half hours. People are lining for the ATM because it provides cash through KeyBank—a bank unemployed people can get their state benefits from. 

And KeyBank only has one branch in the whole of New York City. 

Crypto developers have long offered up solutions to problems like this: send remittances through crypto wallets. This would avoid long lines, save on fees and could also reduce fraud. Crypto could also be used to provide stimulus checks.

But until America fixes its bureaucracy—if crypto doesn’t fix it first—people will keep on making ridiculously journeys and stand in line, without socially distancing, to get cash. 

The Times quotes a resident who lives near the Manhattan ATM saying that most of the people lining are “mostly Hispanic and low-income”—two demographics hit hard by the pandemic. 

COVID-19 has devastated the US economy and sent unemployment soaring. Although it has fallen slightly, it still stands at 13.3%. Last month, US unemployment hit 14.7 percent—the highest level since the Great Depression of the 1930s. 

Money can be taken out of other ATMs with the KeyBank government-issued debit card but fees are high and there limits on withdrawals, the Times reports. 

A crypto solution would probably have to be virtual-only. 

Though Bitcoin ATMs have increased their presence by 70% in the last year to over 7,500 around the world, they suffer the same problem New Yorkers line up to avoid—high fees. Most Bitcoin ATMs charge 7% commission on cryptocurrency purchases and 10% on sales.

In 2020, however, one thing is certain: with so many options for buying, selling and using digital assets, no one should be standing in a line all day to get cash—especially during a pandemic.