State, Local Update on Coronavirus

The news is moving faster than most of us can keep up. Which states have issued shelter-in-place orders? Which states have placed prohibitions on debt collection? What is the federal government doing? There are so many more questions than answers. Read on for updates on where things stand, as of Wednesday morning. 

Columbus Suspends Debt Collection

The city of Columbus, Ohio announced that it is suspending debt collection activity for debts owed to the city, including income taxes, utility fees, and ambulance charges.

The city’s Division of Income Tax will not forward accounts with unpaid debts to the city Attorney’s office for cases to be filed in small claims court, according to a published report. As well, no new bills will be sent to residents for at least the next 30 days. The city will also not place new accounts with third-party collection agencies for at least the next 30 days.

Individuals with an existing payment plan already in place are expected to continue making payments, unless they have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic in some way. In that case, they are asked to make contact with the collection agency to request forbearance on the debt.

Collectors Allowed to Keep Working in West Virginia

Professional debt collectors made the list of essential businesses in a shelter-in-place order that was issued by Jim Justice, the governor of West Virginia yesterday.

While not going into specifics about what constitutes a “professional” debt collector, the industry made the list along with related creditor service workers.

Residents of West Virginia are directed to stay at home or their place of residence unless performing an essential activity, which includes obtaining food or medicine, visiting family, going to church, or going to work, if the job is on the list of essential businesses.

Washington Issues Shelter-in-Place Order

Jay Inslee, the governor of Washington, issued a shelter-in-place order yesterday, prohibiting people from leaving their home unless they are conducting “essential activities” or employment at an “essential business service.”

Unfortunately, the list of essential business services does not explicitly include debt collectors. It does allow companies to have employees work from home as long as they do not engage in in-person contact with clients.

Within the list of financial services business and employees who are deemed to be essential are: workers who are needed to process financial transactions, such as payments, and workers who support financial operations, such as those staffing data and security centers.

Wisconsin Issues Stay at Home Order

Licensed financial services providers made the list of essential businesses that can remain open in Wisconsin following an executive order that was issued by Governor Tony Evers.

Collection agencies do require a license from the state Department of Financial Institutions to operate in Wisconsin.

Residents may only leave their home to perform essential activities, work at essential businesses, or perform non-essential minimum basic operations, such as process payroll and benefits or helping ensure that employees can continue to work remotely.

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