- Dec 11, 2018
President Donald Trump's Treasury Department has given U.S. banks a green light to seize a portion or all of the one-time $1,200 coronavirus relief payments meant to help Americans cope with financial hardship and instead use the money to pay off individuals' outstanding debts—a move consumer advocates decried as cruel and unacceptable.
"These payments are supposed to help individuals and families put food on the table during this crisis, not enrich debt collectors."
—Maura Healey, Massachusetts Attorney General
"The Treasury Department effectively blessed this activity on a webinar with banking officials last Friday," The American Prospect's David Dayen reported Tuesday.
In an audio recording from the webinar obtained exclusively by the Prospect, Ronda Kent, chief disbursing officer at the Treasury Department's Bureau of the Fiscal Service, told bankers that "there's nothing in the law that precludes" financial institutions from seizing a person's payment and using it to pay off the individual's debts.
"After a third of U.S. renters couldn't make rent this month, the Treasury Department is pointing out opportunities for banks and debt collectors to steal Americans' relief checks out from under them," Jeremy Funk, spokesperson for consumer advocacy group Allied Progress, said in a statement responding to Kent's comments.
"It's the middle of a pandemic," said Funk. "This money should be going toward food, rent, and medicine—it's not the time to hand out favors to debt collection industry donors or pad some big bank's bottom line," said Funk. "Secretary Mnuchin needs to ensure that these $1,200 checks go straight into Americans pockets where they belong."
'Beyond Predatory': Trump Treasury Department Gives Banks Green Light to Seize $1,200 Stimulus Checks to Pay Off Debts
"The Treasury Department is pointing out opportunities for banks and debt collectors to steal Americans' relief checks out from under them."