Debt Collectors Can Take Your Stimulus Money in West Virginia

Accepting Cases in Morgantown, Wheeling, Martinsburg & Nearby West Virginia

Posted: April 20, 2020

You need to be aware that if you receive a stimulus payment under the federal CARES Act by direct deposit or deposit it yourself, debt collectors in West Virginia may be able to seize or garnish some or all of those funds to satisfy a judgment. That's what happened to Cheri and Seth Long, whose outrageous treatment is described in this story in the (Morgantown, WV) Dominion-Post. West Virginia University Hospitals attempted to seize the Longs' stimulus payment in order to satisfy a judgment WVUH had received for, you guessed it, medical debt the Longs owed. 

Part of the problem is that, unlike other states, debt collectors in West Virginia have been designated as an "essential business" by Governor Jim Justice, which allows them to continue to operate. Yesterday's (Huntington, WV) Herald-Dispatch reported that WV Attorney General Patrick Morrisey isn't sure if WV residents' stimulus checks are protected from debt collectors, although those protections exist in neighboring states.

The state court judge did the right thing in ruling that WVUH wasn't entitled to take the Longs' stimulus money to satisfy its judgment, but he based his ruling on WVUH's violation of the Longs' right to due process, and not the violation of any state law prohibiting debt collection activities during the COVID-19 outbreak. That means that creditors and debt collectors can and will continue to take consumers' funds to satisfy judgments and garnishments, even if the funds were paid under the CARES Act. 

If a debt collector or creditor has taken your stimulus payment to satisfy a judgment or garnishment, or you think you've been the victim of abusive debt collection activities, please call me at (304) 769-6058, email me at jeff@mehaliclaw.com, or fill out the contact form on this site. I serve clients in Morgantown, Wheeling, Martinsburg, and nearby areas of West Virginia. I look forward to hearing from you.