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Coronavirus (COVID-19): Wage Garnishments and Bank Account Garnishments Will Stop For Consumer Debt until May 21, 2020

Authored By: Northwest Justice Project

Read more about Governor Inslee's order halts certain types of garnishment until May 21, 2020. #0209EN

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Introduction

Washington's Governor has ordered Washington state residents to shelter in place during the pandemic. Many people have since lost their jobs and need all their money to pay for essential living expenses.

Because of this crisis, the Governor has now ordered that all garnishments for consumer debt are waived (forgiven or excused) and suspended (stopped) through May 21, 2020. This means creditors cannot start collecting on consumer debt by garnishing wages or bank accounts during this time.

*Consumer debt includes credit card debt, medical debt, and most kinds of household debt. The Governor's order does not apply to some other kinds of debt, like child support debts, court fines, and legal financial obligations (LFOs) and restitution from criminal cases.

Before, if a creditor like a collection agency won a money judgment (a court order saying you owe a debt) against you, it would use the court order to force your employer to give them some of your paycheck (wage garnishment). Or they might force a bank to give them some of your money (bank account garnishment). 

What does the Governor's order change?

  • Court clerks for judgment creditors should not issue new writs of garnishment (court orders allowing garnishment) when a creditor asks for one. 

  • Judgment creditors should not apply for new writs of garnishment of wages or bank accounts or try to serve garnishment orders on employers, banks, or debtors.

  • Interest on consumer debt judgments should not grow during this time.

  • Employers and bank accounts should not withhold money owed to a debtor.

If a writ of garnishment was already entered before the Governor's order on April 14, 2020, some creditors might try to use those old orders and cause a bank or employer to take some of your money. 

Try to talk to a lawyer if your paycheck or bank account is garnished during this time. See below for where to get legal help.

A creditor is trying to garnish my wages or bank account anyway! What do I do?  

Try to get legal help right away.

We also have sample letters you can use, depending on your situation.          

To apply for free legal help:

If you are outside King County, call the CLEAR Hotline at 1-888-201-1014 weekdays between 9:15 am and 12:15 pm. 

If you live in King County, you can call 206-464-1519 weekdays 9:00-5:00 pm to be screened for intake with the Northwest Justice Project's King County office.

Northwest Justice Project also has attorneys on-call on Tuesdays 1:00-3:00 pm to answer questions and give advice at its King County Debt Collection Defense Clinic. If you live in King County, call the Debt Clinic at 206-707-0934 on Tuesdays between 1:00-3:00 pm.

You can also contact the Washington Attorney General's office to file a complaint.

If a collection agency is trying to garnish your wages or bank account, contact the Washington Collection Agency Board to file a complaint.

Download Sample Letters

Last Review and Update: May 15, 2020
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