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Ohio Attorney General: Creditors Can't Seize Coronavirus Stimulus Checks

dollar bills money
Mark Lennihan

Most Ohioans will soon be getting a stimulus check as part of a federal aid bill signed into law last month. Banks and creditors might see this as an opportunity to collect, but Ohio’s law enforcement chief is putting them on notice that they can’t touch that money.

Under the federal CARES Act signed by President Trump, individuals making less than $75,000 per year are eligible for a payment of $1,200. Couples making less than $150,000 annually will get $2,400. Each child claimed as a dependent qualifies for an additional $500.

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost says those stimulus checks are protected by state law.

“We believe that that provision applies here, that it makes that stimulus check that, frankly is because we are not working and don’t know when we are going to get back to work, it makes that money off-limits to bill collectors," Yost says.

He says the stimulus check is a payment that represents future earnings, something that is protected from seizure by creditors from debtors.

“Not only is that money protected by Ohio law, if you start picking fights with Ohioans, you are picking a fight with the attorney general," Yost says.

Yost says the federal checks are meant to be used during an emergency to keep a roof over your head, lights on and food on the table. He says anyone who receives notice from a creditor trying to get that money should go to the Ohio Attorney General’s website for additional information on how to report and prevent that action.

In a conference call with reporters Tuesday, Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) said many Ohioans will see the money pop up in their bank accounts as early as Wednesday.

"If you have filed your taxes in the last couple years, 2018 and 2019, and about more than half of Ohioans have, you will receive it as a direct deposit in your account," Portman said.

For Ohioans who did not file recent tax returns, like those on Social Security, Portman said they may have to wait about a week. And some should expect a paper check in the mail.

The Internal Revenue Service has created a website for non-filers to register for stimulus payments.

Jo Ingles is a professional journalist who covers politics and Ohio government for the Ohio Public Radio and Television for the Ohio Public Radio and Television Statehouse News Bureau. She reports on issues of importance to Ohioans including education, legislation, politics, and life and death issues such as capital punishment.
Mark has been a host, reporter and producer at several NPR member stations in Delaware, Alaska, Washington and Kansas. His reporting has taken him everywhere from remote islands in the Bering Sea to the tops of skyscrapers overlooking Puget Sound. He is a diehard college basketball fan who enjoys taking walks with his dog, Otis.