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Millions at risk of losing stimulus payments to debt collectors

3 months 3 weeks 1 day ago Wednesday, April 15 2020 Apr 15, 2020 April 15, 2020 8:56 PM April 15, 2020 in News
Source: CNN

Millions of Americans received their stimulus payments from the federal government this week, however, some are at risk of losing the money immediately if they owe credit card, medical, or private student loan debts.

Some who are most in need of the emergency aid may not get it. About 33% of people in the United States have debt in collections and could be impacted, the National Consumer Law Center says.

The $2.2 trillion congressional coronavirus relief plan does not shield the stimulus payments from certain debt collectors, though it protected the money from being taken to cover unpaid taxes or federal student loan payments.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin received a letter from 25 state attorneys and the Hawaii Office of Consumer Protection asking him to issue guidance, protecting the payments from private debt collectors, too.

Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri also called on the Treasury Department to prevent garnishments for private debts. Despite the bipartisan push, Treasury hasn't issued new guidance. The agency did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday, CNN reports.

Some local governments and states have issued their own orders to shield stimulus payments from private debt collectors. 

Though high-income earners are excluded from the emergency assistance during the coronavirus outbreak, a majority of people are eligible for some money.

Payment began being distributed on Monday, starting with those who already had bank account information on file so that it would directly deposit the money.

For others, the IRS will send paper checks, though it could take weeks, even months for people to receive them.

 A collection agency cannot garnish the check unless you deposit it into an account it has access to. 

To avoid having the payment garnished by a debt collector, residents can monitor their bank accounts closely,

 Associate Director at the National Consumer Law Center says you can avoid having the payment garnished by a debt collector by monitoring your bank account closely, taking out money as quickly as possible.

She said many Americans may not know their bank account is at risk of seizure because they have not been served properly in a collection lawsuit.

The stimulus payment should be deposited in the same bank account where you received your tax refund in either 2018 or 2019.

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