by WorldTribune Staff, March 12, 2021
Courts and banks could intercept the $1,400 stimulus checks Americans are expecting to get from the covid relief package passed by Congress, a consumer group warned.
The payments could be taken to settle outstanding debts, the National Association of Consumer Advocates said.
“These stimulus payments are intended to help families stay above water, to help them pay for food and other necessities,” said Christine Hines, the association’s legislative director. “Not for obscure and sometimes disputed debt.”
The previous relief bill, signed into law by President Donald Trump in December, included specific language protecting the direct payments from garnishment.
But the protection was left out of the current bill as Democrats rushed to get the package to Joe Biden’s desk without Republican support, Hines said.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, Oregon Democrat, said Tuesday that he plans to introduce standalone legislation to shield the payments from private debt collectors.
“Last year, Democrats and Republicans joined together to shield relief payments, and I would hope that Senate Republicans again support ensuring families receive the $1,400 they need to pay rent and buy groceries,” Wyden said.
Wyden said Senate rules did not allow Democrats to include the language in the package.
“Banks are obligated to comply with court orders, so they can’t be blamed for this,” Hines said. “This has to be an act of Congress to protect these federal benefits from garnishment.”
Final House passage of the bill is expected on Wednesday.
The Treasury Department said it will send the funds electronically to households that provide banking direct deposit information and will ship out paper checks or debit cards to others.