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Yesterday, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey's (AG) office issued guidance on the CARES Act stimulus checks that are sent to individuals and families. The guidance sends a clear message: creditors and debt collectors, these funds are not for you to via compulsory action.
The guidance discusses the one-time cash payments of $1,200 for each eligible individual or $2,400 for those who filed joint returns and $500 per dependent child. These checks should start hitting consumers' bank account any day now, if not already.
According to the AG's office states:
It is the Attorney General’s view that, under Massachusetts law, all funds provided to Massachusetts residents under Section 2201 of the [CARES Act] constitute “public assistance” under [the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Act]. Accordingly, the funds are exempt from seizure, including garnishment, under G. L. c. 235, § 34, and attachment under G. L. c. 223, § 42, and remain exempt after payment regardless of the manner in which the funds are deposited or thereafter held.
The guidance goes on to state:
[A]ny action, or threat to take action, by a creditor or a debt collector to garnish, attach or otherwise seize these funds violates the Attorney General’s Debt Collection Regulations, which prohibit the compulsory collection of funds or property that are exempt by law
There is also a reminder that the AG's Emergency Debt Collection Regulations "prohibit new garnishments or attachments by a creditor or a debt collector during the COVID-19 emergency period."
The guidance explicitly states that it does not apply to actions of the Massachusetts Department of Revenue, including actions to collect past due child support.