COVID-19 Updates and Information
Last updated: April 1
Like all of you, we are closely watching Coronavirus updates. We encourage you to follow all instructions provided by health and safety officials to avoid contact with others, regularly wash your hands, and keep travel to a minimum to help manage the spread of the virus.
Some of you have called us asking how this impacts your debts. Bottom line is that all current government efforts do not impact the money you already owe to a debt collector. Proposed programs might include delays in mortgage or rent payments, but these are temporary solutions. Any debts owed today will still be owed after the virus has passed. We encourage you to research your state’s current programs to see if you qualify for assistance.
Here are a few of our own updates that we’d like to share with you:
We are taking safety measures to protect employees. This means some representatives may be working from home. While we will continue to answer all calls and emails, please understand there may be some delays.
Creditors and Collectors might close offices or limit their work. We will continue to contact them as usual, but we expect slower response times.
There is no government “debt forgiveness” program. We will work with you on your monthly commitment in times of need, however, if you are currently in an installment arrangement with a creditor then it is important to continue those payments to avoid another default. Your Client Services representative will be happy to provide additional details if requested.
The current situation might impact you. If you are under additional financial stress, please let us know. We can work to accommodate most special requests.
New York Residents – Click the following link to read about the Governor and Attorney General’s suspension of state-collected debts. This only pertains to certain loans and medical debts being collected by the state. https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-and-attorney-general-james-temporarily-suspend-state-debt-collection-response
IRS Delays – The deadline for filing tax returns is now July 15. Anyone entitled to a refund is encouraged to file as soon as possible. HOWEVER, if you earned less money in 2018 than 2019 then they should wait a couple of weeks to ensure that they get the largest check possible from the treasury department once the stimulus bill is passed by Congress and signed by the President. The size of the refund will be based on the most recent tax return filed. The IRS is also limiting certain collection activities during this time and taking other measures to help ease financial burdens. Go to https://www.irs.gov/coronavirus to get the latest updates. Do not call the IRS unless you absolutely have to as it is nearly impossible to reach them now.
Mortgage short-term payment delays. – Many major banks/lenders have agreed to temporarily suspend residential mortgage payments for up to 3 months. They have also agreed to not start any eviction or foreclosure actions for at least 60 days and late payments will not be reported to credit agencies during this time. Before skipping any payments be sure to contact your mortgage lender and discuss your situation.
Student loan collection delays. – Borrowers who have defaulted on federal student loans will not have any money garnished from their wages for at least 60 days as of March 13. Interest rates on all federal student loans are being temporarily adjusted to 0% for the same timeframe. Contact your loan servicer either online or by phone to take advantage of any other relief they are currently offering.
Are you a renter impacted by this? Call your landlord to discuss it. – While there is no federal guidance around this yet, some states are forbidding evictions and late fees during the worst of the pandemic. Many landlords are able to take advantage of the mortgage delays so they might be in a better position to delay rent income as well. You won’t know unless you call and ask, so don’t be afraid to do so.
401k Withdrawal Regulations Loosened – The CARES act signed last week allows anyone with a 401k to withdraw up to $100,000 without the usual 10% penalty. You will be given up to 3 years to return the funds, otherwise it will be taxed as regular income, but those extra taxes can be paid over an additional 3 years. We do not recommend taking retirement money except in extreme circumstances and you should explore all other options before doing this. We also recommend that the money be returned within the 3 year period if it has to be taken out. More details are at https://fortune.com/2020/03/27/401k-withdrawal-penalties-waived-retirement-accounts-loans-retirees-coronavirus-stimulus-package-cares-act-relief-bill/?fbclid=IwAR1ucu1M_Qnf9YPv3b79pC_oHW3lI6nIHoyTm7znUh0s-UoO0PT8mMy0ZuA
Massachusetts Debt Collection Activity Suspension – As of March 10, it is forbidden for a debt collector to contact any of our Massachusetts clients by phone or in-person for the purposes of debt collection on any unsecured debts (except for Gas, Telephone, Utilities and Cable) or initiate any new lawsuits, wage garnishments, or any other legal actions to collect those debts. This will last either 90 days or until the current State of Emergency in Massachusetts has been ended by the Attorney General. This is specific to Massachusetts for the time being but other states might create similar legislation. If any of our Massachusetts clients receive calls or legal threats you have the right to report the collector to the Attorney General’s office or let us know and we will contact the collector on your behalf. The emergency act is located at https://mcusercontent.com/c030a849a439e0a1cdc78d3e3/files/906cbce7-3ff3-4407-895d-b976fe8bb5fe/MA_Emergency_Regulation_940_CMR_35.00.pdf
Lenders Block Credit Report Provision from CARES Act – The original CARES stimulus package included a 3-4 month moratorium on recording of late/missed payments to creditors. The Lenders lobby pushed back and got it removed from the package before it was passed. What this means is, as of now, all missed payments will still be placed on credit reports. They might be coded differently in the report but there are no guarantees that it will help borrowers at all. There are also no protections against debt collectors except in some states where they are currently not allowed to call or initiate new lawsuits. Please click on the following link for details – https://nypost.com/2020/03/31/lenders-blocked-plan-to-protect-americans-credit-scores-amid-coronavirus/
Please visit the Center for Disease Control (CDC) Website for up-to-date information: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html
Be safe and take care of yourselves and your families. We’ll be right here doing our jobs for you!