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Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation (S.5923-A/A.6617-A) protecting New Yorkers' COVID-19 stimulus payments from being garnished by debt collectors. All relief payments to New Yorkers under these federal acts, including stimulus payments, tax refunds, rebates and tax credits to support individuals and children qualified for or received prior to the effective date, will be protected. This legislation also creates a carve-out for claims brought by individuals who have an interest in the relief payments to ensure these funds can be collected to pay child and spousal support and to collect payments in situations involving fraud.
A press release stated, “Any person who is subject to a money judgment being enforced against their bank account will receive a notice that COVID-19 stimulus funds are protected and, if they have been inadvertently frozen by a creditor, they should promptly return a form included with the notice to get those funds released.”
Cuomo said, "New Yorkers in every corner of the state felt the effects of the COVID pandemic, many losing jobs due to no fault of their own and struggling to support themselves and their families," Cuomo said. "This critical legislation will help ensure relief payments made to New Yorkers are protected from unscrupulous debt collectors so that the money can be used as it was intended – to help make individuals and families whole as they continue to recover from the economic impacts of the pandemic."
Superintendent of Financial Services Linda A. Lacewell said, "I applaud the governor and the Legislature for acting on this important matter. This new law protects individuals and families from debt collection against COVID-19 relief payments from Congress, including from banks for debts they claimed against their customers' accounts. In doing so, the law accomplishes Congress' goal for these funds: to provide relief to households that have been economically impacted by the pandemic. The department is committed to protecting financial security of all New Yorkers, especially those in communities that have been most impacted by COVID-19."
The press release added, “Stimulus payments were provided to individuals and families with children to help them meet their financial needs and support themselves and their families while dealing with the unprecedented economic and health consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. This new legislation will help ensure New Yorkers have the opportunity to use the full benefit of the financial assistance provided by these federal acts.”
Any New Yorker with questions about these protections can call the New York Department of Financial Services consumer assistance unit toll-free at 800-342-3736 or send an email to [email protected]. Anyone who has had their stimulus payments taken by a debt collector after May 13, 2021, should file a complaint with the New York Department of Financial Services at www.dfs.ny.gov/complaint.