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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2019 - 2020 Regular Session


Posted: April 23, 2020 11:45 AM
From: Senator Jay Costa
To: All Senate members
Subject: Federal CARES Act Stimulus and Unemployment Compensation Debt Collection Ban
In the near future, I will be introducing legislation to address issues regarding the garnishment of stimulus and UC benefits by private creditors and collection agencies.

During this extraordinarily difficult time, through no fault of their own, individuals across Pennsylvania are struggling to provide for themselves and their families. The federal government recognized these hardships when they passed the CARES Act, which provided stimulus payments to individuals and families, as well as extended Unemployment Compensation (UC) benefit weeks and provided additional weekly benefit payments to all UC-eligible applicants. 

We are seeing reports in other jurisdictions that private debt collectors are seizing upon the opportunity to satisfy debts owed by individuals through garnishment of federal stimulus dollars. Several Governors and Attorneys General have already taken steps to assure that relief funding is not being diverted for the purposes of collecting debt.

My legislation would protect life-sustaining government payments to individuals and families during the COVID-19 crisis in the following ways:
  • Suspend the ability of private creditors and collections agencies to attach any federal stimulus or UC benefits for garnishment to satisfy debts;
  • Suspend state and local government debt garnishment, including for medical and student loan debt collection (this would not apply to child support);
  • Prohibit state-chartered banks and credit unions from seizing stimulus checks or UC payments; and
  • Extend the debt collection suspension period for at least 60 days after the state emergency disaster declaration has been lifted. 
I know we all recognize the struggles that both individuals and businesses are going through during these unprecedented times. However, we should not allow direct governmental support to our citizens to be commandeered by collection agencies looking to seize upon an opportunity.

I hope you will join me in standing with Pennsylvania’s families by signing onto this legislation.

Introduced as SB1151