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Virginia Office of Attorney General

04/08/2021 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 04/08/2021 11:50

April 8, 2021 - Amendment to AG Herring and Delegate Ayala’s Bill Ensures Entirety of Economic Relief Payments Protected from Debt Collectors

Commonwealth of Virginia
Office of the Attorney General

Mark Herring
Attorney General

202 North Ninth Street
Richmond, Virginia 23219

For media inquiries only, contact:
Charlotte Gomer, Press Secretary
Phone: (804)786-1022
Mobile: (804) 512-2552
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~ Amendment to new law from Herring and Ayala protects whole stimulus payments from garnishment and seizure by creditors and debt collectors ~

RICHMOND (April 8, 2021)- An amendment to a new law from Attorney General Mark R. Herring and Delegate Hala Ayala will ensure that the entirety of the most recent round of stimulus payments help Virginians support themselves and their families during the COVID crisis rather than getting swept up by debt collectors and creditors. The initial bill was passed during last year's special legislative session after it was discovered that the initial round of support payments issued by Congress as part of the CARES Act was left vulnerable to seizure or garnishment.

'These federal stimulus payments are meant to go towards helping Virginia families put food on the table, keep the lights on, purchase medical supplies, and other necessities,' said Attorney General Herring. 'Virginians have dealt with so much over the past year and they should not have to add worrying about debt collectors or creditors coming after their much-needed stimulus money to that list. As we continue to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, putting Virginians first must always be our top priority and I want to thank Delegate Ayala for her partnership on this important legislation.'

'Families across the Commonwealth are still struggling to make ends meet during this uncertain economic time and it's so important that any federal stimulus payments go towards food, utilities, rent, and other necessities,' said Delegate Ayala. 'Attorney General Herring and I recognized early on that garnishment of these payments could be a serious problem and I'm so glad we were able to come up with this solution. These unprecedented times have forced us to come up with new and innovative ways to help and protect Virginians and I want to thank Attorney General Herring for his help on getting this legislation passed.'

When it was discovered that CARES Act relief payments were not explicitly protected from garnishment, Attorney General Herring urged then U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to take steps to ensure the payments would benefit struggling Americans rather than creditors and debt collectors. When the Trump Administration failed to act, Attorney General Herring pursued a state-level solution to ensure these payments benefits Virginians who need help.

During the 2020 COVID and Criminal Justice Reform Special Session, the General Assembly passed HB5068 from Attorney General Herring and Delegate Hala Ayala with bipartisan support. The bill exempts up to $1,200 state and federal emergency relief payments from garnishment, attachment, and other legal creditor process seizures. It included an emergency clause ensuring it went into effect immediately upon Governor Northam's signature. The amendment to HB5068 ensures that Virginians are able to keep the entirety of their federal stimulus payments, protecting that money from debt collectors and creditors.

If any Virginian believes that their economic relief payment has been unlawfully garnished or seized, they should assert their rights under § 34-28.3. Emergency relief payments exempt directly with the relevant collections agency or financial institution.

The bill was part of Attorney General Herring's 2020 COVID legislative package that included garnishment/seizure protection for relief payments, new laws to protect Virginians and Virginia hospitals and businesses from price gouging on PPE and other necessities, measures to help Virginians stay in their homes and keep utilities connected, and measures to ensure safe voting.

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