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Coronavirus

Consumer rights group urges Hogan to implement protections for coronavirus stimulus checks

A letter from nonprofit Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition, which was co-signed by 30 other labor organizations and other groups, was sent to Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and Chief Judge Mary Ellen Barbera on Tuesday asking for protection from garnishments on stimulus checks doled out by the federal government during the coronavirus pandemic.

The $2 trillion aid package was signed into law late March by President Donald Trump to provide relief to families and businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, many workers have reported cases of debt collectors swooping in to take their checks.

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A representative from the governor’s office could not be immediately reached for comment.

The letter to Hogan urges him to act by “clarifying that all stimulus checks are exempt from garnishment and that garnishment of such funds is an unfair and deceptive trade practice.”

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The groups also asked Hogan to keep in place “the enforcement of all new and existing garnishment orders as well as offsets against benefits or tax returns; seizure of property; or liens.”

State governments across the country have enacted measures to keep the money in the hands of workers and families. In Washington, D.C., an emergency order bars creditors and debt collectors from acting on the garnishment of wages, earnings, or property for payments until July 9. The Supreme Court of Virginia ruled that garnishments will not be issued through April 26.

Marceline White, executive director of the Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition, said the impetus of the letter came after she heard of various workers who had deposited their stimulus checks in their bank accounts, only to check later and find out they had been taken by creditors and debt collectors.

White said Hogan has been proactive throughout the coronavirus pandemic in protecting workers and is hopeful he will act soon.

“This money is not to pay back rent, it’s not to pay a credit card debt, it’s not to pay off something else,” White said. “This is for immediate needs and to immediately help people today during this very critical period in our country.”

Almost 62,000 Marylanders filed for unemployment last week and nearly 297,000 people have filed for unemployment in the past month.


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