The first letter rolled in the middle of January. 

The woman’s name was Claire and she wrote to the Sun Journal’s Sun Spots column to complain about her stimulus check, which had arrived in suspicious condition. 

“The envelope that the check came in was open and I could tell that it had never been sealed,” Claire wrote. “I’m not sure what’s going on there. Has this happened to anyone else? What do I do if I don’t receive my stimulus check?” 

She was concerned and confused. 

But she wasn’t alone. What followed was a steady stream of letters to Sun Spots in which at least half a dozen locals complained of similar experiences. 

“I wanted to let Claire, whose letter was in your Jan. 19 column, know that I also received my $600 stimulus check in the US mail inside an unsealed (never having been moistened) envelope,” wrote Virginia Labbe of Paris. “It’s a miracle it ever reached me in that condition.” 

Another woman wrote to report the same thing. Then another and another after that. 

“What’s the matter?” one wit commented. “Can’t the IRS afford glue?” 

The joke wasn’t far off the mark, as it happens. 

According to a spokesman from the United States Postal Service, the problem with unsealed envelopes began at the offices of the U.S. Treasury. 

“Apparently there was an issue with one of the mail processing machines at the Treasury and a number of envelopes got through unsealed,” said Steve Doherty, strategic communications specialist with the USPS. “As you can imagine, these were dropped at one of our processing facilities with hundreds of envelopes per tray, shrink-wrapped on pallets. 

“Since the envelopes being unsealed created no problem making it through our sorting equipment, we had no way of identifying unsealed envelopes until they got to the delivery unit and were first handled by the letter carriers,” Doherty said. “There was some concern by customers that there may have been two checks in the envelope and one fell out or was stolen. But the Treasury has assured us that each check is mailed in a separate envelope, never doubled up. So, if the check is in the envelope, they’ve gotten everything you should have.” 

As it happens, that was a concern of some of the people who wrote to Sun Spots. One woman wrote she had received her $600 stimulus check but her husband had not. That left her wondering if her husband’s check had been in the same envelope but had been lost. 

That wasn’t the case, but even as the unsealed envelope phenomenon was explained, there remained much confusion about who should be expecting checks and when they might arrive. 

“When are you supposed to get the checks and when should you start worrying about not getting them?” Labbe wondered on Friday. “It’s hard to know. It’s just weird.” 

It was not clear how many people have received the unsealed envelopes to date. None of those who wrote in reported finding empty envelopes or missing checks.

The woman who writes the Sun Spots column — who is never identified by Sun Journal policy — spent the better part of her week calling around in search for answers to the matter of those unsealed envelopes and other issues related to the stimulus checks.  

She did this while also working on other Sun Spots questions, involving matters such as the COVID-19 vaccination, the search for yellow peas and a World War II era piano being given away for free. 

And the people who had written with questions about their stimulus checks definitely appreciated it. 

“God bless her,” Labbe said. “I can’t imagine all the work that woman does. What would we do without her?” 

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