A bill has been introduced in the California legislature that would protect $2,000 from being garnished from an individual’s bank account in the event a judgment has been awarded.
The proposed legislation — Senate Bill 616 — was introduced last week by state Sen. Bob Wieckowski, a Democrat.
“A substantial number of people are surviving paycheck-to-paycheck and our current laws are inadequate to protect them against a debt collector who seeks to empty out every last penny of their account,” said Wieckowski, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, in a statement. “Current law recognizes the importance of making sure people can pay for the basic necessities, but fails from a practical standpoint because the process to seek exemptions from a bank levy is too slow and cumbersome to match the speed with which collectors move.”
If enacted, the bill would go into effect on Sept. 1, 2020.
The bill would protect one debtor from full garnishment of an account and would not be on a per-account basis, according to the proposed legislation. The protection would not apply to funds levied to pay for child support or spousal support.
If enacted, California would join 15 other states in protecting some of an individual’s assets from garnishment, according to a published report. A large number of individuals today are not able to handle financial emergencies and removing all the funds from their bank account would leave them more vulnerable, supporters of the bill said.
“In over 10 years as a legal aid attorney, I saw how many families are one financial set back away from crisis. California’s bank levy laws allow creditors to empty people’s bank accounts down to the last penny, meaning no money for rent, transportation to work, or child care,” said Rebecca Miller, an attorney with the Western Center on Law and Poverty, in a statement. “California should join other states that protect a minimal amount in a person’s bank accounts so they can afford their basic needs.”