Press Release

Attorney General Ellison: Executive order banning garnishment ‘will provide Minnesotans a little more peace of mind that they can afford their lives’ during pandemic

AG Ellison proposed new executive order banning garnishment of CARES Act and other stimulus payments by debt collectors; AG’s office empowered to enforce order that will help Minnesotans keep roof over heads, food on table

Last month, AG Ellison joined bipartisan group of state AGs in asking U.S. Treasury Department to do the same

May 4, 2020 (SAINT PAUL) — Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison today hailed Governor Tim Walz’s new Executive Order 20-50 that protects federal CARES Act and other state, local, and tribal stimulus payments from garnishment by debt collectors, a step that will help Minnesotans afford their lives during the COVID-19 pandemic. Attorney General Ellison proposed to Governor Walz that Minnesota adopt this executive order, which the Attorney General’s Office is empowered to enforce.

“During the pandemic, our number-one job needs to be helping Minnesotans keep a roof over their heads and food on their table while we stay home to protect themselves and each other against COVID-19 — and garnishing stimulus payments is at cross-purposes with that imperative,” Attorney General Ellison said. “Allies and I proposed this executive order to Governor Walz because of the real threat that debt collectors could make that struggle even harder on Minnesotans — who are already suffering from too much consumer debt — by garnishing payments that are supposed to help them afford their lives during the pandemic.

“I thank Governor Walz for immediately understanding the need for this order and acting quickly to turn it into a reality. It will provide Minnesotans with a little more peace of mind that they can afford their lives during this difficult time. This is exactly the kind of step that shows that we Minnesotans are all in this together,” Attorney General Ellison concluded.

Under the Order, “Recovery Rebates must be deemed to be ‘government assistance based on need’ under Minnesota Statutes 2019, section 550.37, subdivision 14 (“Government Aid”), making them exempt from all claims—except claims for Domestic Support Obligations—by creditors.” Domestic-support obligations include child and spousal support. The Executive Order also suspends all new consumer-debt garnishments for the duration of the peacetime emergency.

Many Minnesotans are suffering from food insecurity, unemployment, and housing insecurity from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. These concerns are exacerbated by outstanding consumer debt and automatic garnishments from Minnesotans’ paychecks and bank accounts. The Minnesota Attorney General’s Office has received numerous reports and complaints from Minnesotans that are unable to keep up with the consumer debt they accrued prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, including reports of consumer-debt garnishments that are impairing Minnesotans’ ability to afford their lives. 

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which was signed into law on March 27, 2020, provides up to $1,200 per adult and $500 per child as Economic Impact Payments. The CARES Act, however, does not explicitly exempt the Economic Impact Payments from garnishment, as Social Security, disability, and veterans’ benefits already are.

On April 13, 2020, Attorney General Ellison joined a bipartisan group of 24 other attorneys general in asking U.S. Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin to take immediate steps to protect CARES Act payments from garnishment by debt collectors.

With today’s executive order, Minnesota joins seven other states — California, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Washington — and  the District of Columbia in protecting CARES Act and other state, local, and tribal COVID-19-related economic-support payments from garnishment by debt collectors.

Attorney General Ellison asks any Minnesotan who is facing or being threatened with garnishment of their CARES Act or other economic-support payments, or who is subject to any newly-initiated garnishment during the peacetime emergency, to file a complaint online or call his office at (651) 296-3353 (Metro) or (800) 657-3787 (Greater Minnesota.)