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Attorney General of Virginia

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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, Director of Communication
Phone: (804)786-1022 
Mobile: (804) 512-2552
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

NEW LAW FROM AG HERRING AND DELEGATE AYALA ENSURES ECONOMIC RELIEF PAYMENTS BENEFIT VIRGINIANS, NOT DEBT COLLECTORS

~ Herring and Ayala won passage of a new law to protect payments from garnishment and seizure by creditors and debt collectors ~

RICHMOND – As this new round of economic support payments begins hitting Virginians’ bank accounts and mailboxes, a new law from Attorney General Mark R. Herring and Delegate Hala Ayala will ensure that nearly all of the payments help Virginians support themselves and their families during the COVID crisis rather than getting swept up by debt collectors and creditors. The 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. Thanks to Attorney General Herring and Delegate Ayala’s bill, the first $1,200 of any COVID-related economic relief payments are exempt from garnishment by debt collectors and creditors.

 

“The most recent round of federal payments represents a lifeline for so many Virginia families who are still struggling to make ends meet because of the economic impacts of the COVID pandemic,” said Attorney General Herring. “Virginians should not have to worry about creditors or debt collectors taking all of their much-needed stimulus money and I’m glad Delegate Ayala and I were able to work together to get this important legislation passed. As we continue to navigate these unprecedented times, we must always put Virginians and their families first.”

 

“Attorney General Herring and I recognized that this could potentially be a serious problem and I’m really proud we were able to come up with and pass a solution,” said Delegate Ayala. “Thousands of Virginia families are still struggling to support themselves during this uncertain economic time and they need this stimulus funding to go towards food, rent, utilities and other necessities. This past year has forced us to come up with creative solutions in order to support Virginians and their families through these difficult times and I want to thank Attorney General Herring for his help with this legislation.”

 

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.

 

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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