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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

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Banks, NJ Enact Stimulus Payment Protection Initiatives

Gov. Phil Murphy

By Press Release

To access the Herald’s local coronavirus/COVID-19 coverage, click here.
TRENTON – Gov. Phil Murphy announced March 24 that financial institutions across New Jersey have put measures in place to protect federal stimulus funds being provided to New Jerseyans during the Covid pandemic.  
“The American Rescue Plan is for the American people, not the banks and creditors,” stated Murphy. “We want residents who have received their federal stimulus funds to be able to put it to use as they deem necessary. I am pleased that 50 banks and credit unions have signed on to our agreement to protect these federal payments being received by New Jerseyans from being garnished for past debts or overdrawn accounts.” 
“We know that many New Jersey residents are facing financial challenges as a result of the pandemic. This initiative is aimed at making sure New Jerseyans can access their stimulus funds and use them to cover essential expenses during this critical time,” stated Department of Banking and Insurance Commissioner Marlene Caride. “We thank the banks and credit unions that have committed to providing stimulus payment protections to our residents and welcome additional institutions to join in this effort.” 
“Many New Jersey families have suffered economically and emotionally during the course of the coronavirus pandemic. Many of these same families will need federal stimulus money to help continue their daily lives, such as buying groceries, paying the light bill, or providing regular medical care for their children,” state Sen. Nellie Pou (D-35th). “These families should not be forced to use federal relief money to pay off a creditor, while they are still trying to recover financially from the pandemic, which may have caused a member of the household to lose their job. These new ‘relief’ checks are meant to provide a small measure of immediate relief, and that is how they should be used.” 
“I applaud Gov. Murphy and Commissioner Caride for taking swift action to prevent the garnishment of the $1,400 direct stimulus payments for past debts or overdrawn accounts,” stated Assemblyman John McKeon (D-27th). “Many New Jerseyans are relying on this much-needed federal relief to help their families get by during this unprecedented public health and economic crisis. This money is to be used to support the people and was never intended to be garnished by banks or debt collectors.”  
According to a release, the Murphy administration secured support from Bank of America, Citibank, PNC Bank, TD Bank and Wells Fargo, in addition to 45 other federal and state-chartered banks and credit unions to protect the stimulus payments of New Jersey residents. More financial institutions are expected to sign on in the coming days. 
The New Jersey Bankers Association and the CrossState Credit Union Association have endorsed this initiative and are encouraging all their members to adopt these policies. 
A third federal stimulus package, the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, was signed into law March 11. As part of this federal stimulus package, the U.S. Department of the Treasury will mail to and deposit stimulus payments into the bank accounts of eligible Americans. 
Under Murphy’s initiative, New Jerseyans will be eligible for the following relief by participating financial institutions upon contacting their bank or credit union:
Protected access to stimulus payment for at least 30-days
Participating institutions have put in place measures to protect access to stimulus funds, regardless of whether the consumer’s bank account is overdrawn or has a negative balance.
This service shall be available for a period of at least 30 days from receipt of funds in the consumer’s account and will apply to stimulus funds provided to New Jerseyans through the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.
For more information on COVID-19 related stimulus payment protections, and a list of participating institutions, click here.
Affected New Jerseyans should confirm with their financial institution when the overdrawn status or negative account balance will be reinstated, including any applicable fees.
If consumers do not see their institution on the list, they should contact their institution to request information about any available stimulus protection programs offered in response to Covid. 
Additionally, Murphy signed Executive Order No. 233, which provides all stimulus payments issued to New Jerseyans under the American Rescue Plan Act to be exempt from, and will not be subject to, garnishment by private creditors and debt collectors. The executive order continues to allow for garnishment in connection with any action for, or any judgment awarding, any child support, spousal support, or family support, or any criminal restitution payable to victims.  
A copy of Executive Order No. 233 is available here.

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