At a time when millions of freshly jobless people are practicing emergency economic triage, debt collectors continue to chase judgments and seek to freeze bank accounts of those they say are in default.
This is madness.
A New Yorker with an autoimmune disorder just received notice of a lawsuit filed by a debt buyer on an alleged 6-year-old credit card debt. A single working mother of three living in public housing discovered that her bank accounts were restrained by a judgment that the city had obtained against her, without her knowledge, in 2014. A 60-year-old home health aide learned that her wages were garnished due to a court order that a debt buyer obtained against her in 2007.
Take those three real-life vignettes provided by the New Economy Project and multiply them by the hundreds, at a time when families across the city are scraping to pay rent and feed themselves.
In ordinary times, private debt collection is important, if unsavory; creditors who are owed money should be made whole, to the extent possible, in cases when debtors default on their obligations.
When a viral outbreak and economic lockdown has wiped out paychecks, when every frozen bank account is potentially locking someone out of the funds they need for food and medicine, private debt collection is an abomination.
A government that has already paused the collection of student debt and medical debt owed to the state of New York must pull down the big red switch and turn off this machinery now.