Stimulus checks of USD 1,400 can be garnished for unpaid debts. Some states are working to prevent this from happening
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New $ 1,400 worth of stimulus checks are set to help millions of Americans weather the financial hardships of the Covid-19 pandemic.
However, the legislation that approved these payments has one major caveat: the funds could be garnished for overdue unpaid debts.
This applies to personal debts such as medical bills or credit card debt that are subject to a court order.
The American Rescue Plan Act, which was passed through a process called budget reconciliation, did not protect the stimulus checks from garnishment.
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Democratic Sens. Sherrod Brown from Ohio, Ron Wyden from Oregon, Bob Menendez from New Jersey and Chris Van Hollen from Maryland have put forward a proposal to protect stimulus payments from private debt collection agencies.
But efforts to push this bill were halted by the Senate Republicans last month.
“Sen. Brown will continue to explore ways to ensure federal payments go to American families, not debt collection agencies,” the lawmaker’s office said.
In the meantime, some states have stepped up to protect payments. The effort is similar to last year when the first $ 1,200 stimulus checks were also garnished. (The $ 600 stimulus checks approved by Congress in December were generally exempt.)
Here is a working list of the states that have taken action so far.
Previous stimulus controls were protected from garnishment by Colorado lawmakers.
However, this does not apply to the new $ 1,400 stimulus exams.
“We are currently working on another bill to increase general protection for garnishments to help protect new stimulus checks,” said Lawrence Pacheco, director of communications with the Colorado Attorney General.
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey issued guidelines in March that state law exempts the $ 1,400 stimulus tests from garnishment or confiscation.
“These stimulus payments must directly help people and families in trouble pay for housing, food, supplies and other basic necessities, and not into the hands of debt collectors,” Healey said in a statement.
However, the guidelines do not apply to measures by the Massachusetts Department of the Treasury, including those relating to overdue child support payments.
In January, Minnesota governor Tim Walz, Democrat, amended and expanded an executive order classing the money as “needs-based government support” that is still in effect.
According to the Minnesota Attorney General, the stimulus funds are exempt from collection for at least six months after receipt.
Nebraska attorney general Doug Peterson issued an announcement in March clarifying that the $ 1,400 stimulus checks may be exempt from attachment, attachment, or execution for some low-income individuals.
“Nebraska law exempts certain income and assets from execution and attachment by creditors and collection agencies,” the announcement said. “These exceptions are intended to ensure that the individual has enough income and assets to cover basic needs such as housing, food and supplies.”
New Jersey Democratic Governor Phil Murphy announced in March that certain state financial institutions had agreed to protect $ 1,400 checks from being withdrawn.
“We want residents who have received their federal incentive funds to use them at their own discretion,” Murphy said in a statement. “I am pleased that 50 banks and credit unions signed our agreement to prevent these federal payments that New Jerseyans receive from being garnished on past debts or overdrawn accounts.”
Protection lasts at least 30 days once the funds have been deposited into a consumer’s account.
New York attorney general Letitia James issued guidelines in March to prevent debt collection agencies from confiscating the $ 1,400 payments.
“These official guidelines make it clear that banks and debt collection agencies cannot freeze or seize economic funds destined for New Yorkers, especially those most in need at this time,” James said in a statement. “My office continues to seek to protect the rights of New Yorkers and to ensure that any institution that violates these guidelines is held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”
In addition to attachment, the guidelines also apply to offsetting where money in accounts is used to settle debts to banks.
However, the guidelines do not apply to New York State measures such as: B. Efforts to collect overdue child support payments.
Oregon continues to protect stimulus controls from garnishment after Oregon lawmakers passed law in an emergency session, according to a spokeswoman for Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum.
Additionally, the Oregon Child Support Program will not receive stimulus checks from financial institutions, the spokeswoman said.
These payments are a lifeline for so many Rhode Island families who have been devastated by the pandemic. They belong to the recipients and are not a fair game for debt collection agencies.
Peter F. Neronha
Attorney General of Rhode Island
Rhode Island Attorney General Peter F. Neronha recently issued guidance stating the $ 1,400 stimulus checks are safe from garnishment or confiscation by debt collection agencies.
“These payments are a lifeline for so many Rhode Island families who have been devastated by the pandemic,” Neronha said in a statement. “They belong to the recipients and are not a fair game for debt collection agencies.”
In addition, if a creditor attempts to seize an incentive payment, the Attorney General will take action to enforce the law.
Virginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring announced a change in law last week to protect the $ 1,400 stimulus checks from debt collection agencies.
The law was originally passed last year to protect the CARES Act payments of $ 1,200 from garnishment.
The change “ensures Virginians are able to keep all of their federal stimulus payments and keep that money safe from debt collectors and creditors,” the announcement said.
In March, Washington governor, Democrat Jay Inslee updated a proclamation on pledging consumer debt in a new language to include “payments of any kind in response to the Covid-19 pandemic” for the US $ 1,400 stimulus payments Dollars apply.
“Your stimulus check should help you pay for the basics like food and rent,” Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said in a statement. “It shouldn’t be garnished to pay medical bills.
“If consumer collection agencies are looking for your business cycle, contact my office.”
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Have you struggled getting your $ 1,400 stimulus check due to unpaid debt and ready to share your story? E-mail [email protected].