Banks may choose to use a customer’s government stimulus check to settle outstanding debts.
While the Internal Revenue Service has issued its first round of emergency cash distributed via direct deposit to upwards of 50 million Americans, the CARES Act which approved payments of up to $1,200 per qualifying adult and $2,400 for joint tax returns, has set no restrictions on banks intervening to seize the funds to pay off private debts.
According to a report by The American Prospect, debt collectors at several leading banks, including Bank of America, Citibank and U.S. Bank, may consider the possibility of diverting the emergency funds from customers’ accounts.
Citing leaked audio from a meeting with bank officials, the Prospect reports that Ronda Kent, chief disbursing officer with the US Treasury’s Bureau of the Fiscal Service, has advised banks to consult with their legal offices to determine how best to handle the checks.
“Another question that came up this morning related to debt collection was whether banks — whether these payments could be subject to collection from the bank to which the money is deposited if the payee owes an outstanding loan or other payment to the bank. And what I’ll say here is, I would suggest that the bank personnel consult with their legal offices.
There’s nothing in the law that precludes that action but again, I don’t know what different banks are doing with respect to their debt collection policies. I do know many creditors are suspending debt collection activity, but you will want to know for your bank what your bank has decided to do. But there’s nothing in the law that precludes that action.”
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