The National Consumer Law Center has published a very useful article describing the twelve most significant changes to the laws and rules governing repaying or canceling student loan debt. You can also access additional digital content from NCLC, including their publication titled Student Loan Law, directly from King County Law Library’s website here
The City of Seattle has ended its moratorium on payment-related evictions. This Seattle Times article provides a good update on the landscape that local renters may now be facing and also mentions a number of related resources.
You can read the article HERE.
Low income residents of King County who are behind on their rent can now apply for a new assistance program. Recipients will be selected in a weekly lottery-style drawing and can can receive up to 12 months of total rent – including up to three months of future rent. To qualify for the aid, applicants must be experiencing COVID-related hardships and housing instability.
You can read the entire Seattle Times article HERE.
Renters can apply for the help here: https://rent-help.kingcounty.gov/
Having legal representation can make all the difference in the world – from keeping someone in their home, to securing proper citizenship status, to protecting people against consumer fraud. This week, the White House announced that it was reinvigorating federal efforts to provide that critical aid – including a request of $1.5 billion in funding for state and local justice systems.
You can read the White House announcement HERE.
The Associated Press story can be read HERE.
The King County Law Library is proud to announce that we are making the NOLO Press database of DIY (do-it-yourself) legal materials available for free to all King County Residents.
The books contain helpful guidance and sample forms on a number of very popular topics. Titles include “Credit Repair,” “Neighbor Law,” and “The Quick & Legal Will Book” and many others. These have always been powerful resources for patrons working on their own legal issues in the Library and we’re excited to now make them accessible from your home or office.
View the full news release HERE.
There will be also be a free webinar on Thursday, February 11th from 6pm-7pm that demonstrates how you can use NOLO and other remotely accessible Library materials to address common credit and money concerns. You can read more and register HERE.
You can access the NOLO titles from our Remote Databases page HERE.
An in-depth article in the Seattle Times takes a look the laws and rules that permit collections firms to make life painful for debtors in Washington State. With the addition of court-sanctioned fees and the highest post-judgment interest rates in the county, lawmakers are finally taking another look the industry.
A lot of helpful information can also be found on the WashingtonLawHelp.org website.
The Northwest Consumer Law Center offers programs to provide affordable legal help with foreclosure, bankruptcy, debt collection, credit reporting issues, automobile purchases and student loan issues. To be eligible for this assistance you must be a Washington State resident and your total household income – before taxes, expenses, deductions, etc. – must be at or below a limit based on the current Federal Poverty Guidelines.
For more information and to determine if you qualify, visit the Get Help section of NWCLC’s web site or call their intake telephone line at (888) 978-3386, extension 1722.
Indigent people can be spared court fees that result from a criminal conviction and cannot be sanctioned for their inability to pay restitution and fines, under the new Washington Legislature Bill E2SHB 1783. This bill will ensure that poor people are not unfairly jailed or tied for years to the criminal justice system because they are unable to pay court-imposed debts known as Legal Financial Obligations (LFOs).
LFOs are fees, fines, costs, and restitution imposed by courts on every person convicted of a crime in Washington. The average LFO in Washington on a single case is $1,128, including misdemeanors. Poor people lack the resources to pay LFOs; according to the Administrative Office of the Courts, only 23.8% of LFOs are paid statewide. Even people who are homeless or who rely on public assistance payments to meet basic needs are forced to pay LFOs and interest. As a result, people with limited finances face insurmountable debt and remain tethered to the criminal justice system for years. And while jail is supposed to be reserved for individuals who willfully refuse to pay their LFOs, all too often courts have locked up poor people who were simply unable to pay, resulting in modern-day debtors’ prison. In one Washington county, approximately 20% of people in custody on a given day were serving time for non-payment of court-imposed debt.
- Prioritization of Victim Restitution: The bill prioritizes victim restitution by clarifying that this obligation must be paid out before any other LFOs when an LFO payment is submitted. Court costs, fines, and other assessments are to be paid after all victim restitution is completed.
- Ending the practice of jailing people who are unable to pay LFOs: The law clarifies that a court cannot jail a person who fails to pay LFOs unless the failure to pay is willful. People who are homeless or mentally ill cannot be found to have willfully failed to pay.
- Clearer standards for indigence and ability to pay: Judges will no longer be allowed to impose certain costs on defendants, such as the cost for his or her public defender if they meet certain income requirements created by the bill that render the individual indigent (someone at 125% of the poverty level).
- Reducing the Number of Mandatory LFOs: Many mandatory LFOs become discretionary, meaning the court can waive them upon a finding of indigence (someone at 125% of the poverty level).
- Elimination of Interest: The courts can waive interest rates on unpaid LFOs, which are currently at 12%.
- Set-Up Payment Plans: The courts can set up payment plans for costs and fines if the person is homeless, mentally ill, or indigent (someone at 125% of the poverty level).
- Community Service Creation: Several provisions allow for the court to convert some LFOs to community service if the defendant is too poor to pay.
- Protecting Public Assistance: The bill prohibits forced collection of funds received from needs-based public assistance programs.
Supporters of the new law said in legislative hearings that LFOs, with their high interest rates, create an endless financial web for poor offenders after they are released from prison, keeping some in poverty and unable to return to society. It will remove some of the hurdles that make it difficult for some people to “get back on their feet” after incarceration, Gov. Jay Inslee said.
“This law ensures a person’s ability to pay is considered when LFOs are imposed, and enables people with limited resources who have served their time to move on with their lives… No one should serve jail time simply because they are too poor to pay.” – Prachi Dave, Staff Attorney for the ACLU of Washington.
For comprehensive information about the impacts of LFOs, see Modern-Day Debtors Prisons: The Ways Court-Imposed Debts Punish People for Being Poor, a report issued by the ACLU of Washington and Columbia Legal Services: https://www.aclu-wa.org/docs/modern-day-debtors-prisons-washington. Community advocates, including the ACLU-WA, Columbia Legal Services, and the Statewide Poverty Action Network (Poverty Action), have been seeking changes to the LFO system for the past several years. You can read their reactions to this new law here:
This article, Motor Vehicle Repossessions: Consumer Debt Advice from NCLC, is the third in a series of articles from NCLC (National Consumer Law Center) that provide advice for families in financial difficulty. The Consumer Debt Advice series, targeted directly to the consumer, includes information about legal rights and best strategies for dealing with debt.
The focus of this article is on motor vehicle repossession including limits on self-help repossessions, ten strategies to prevent repossessions, six steps to take after your car is repossessed, and advice on responding to the creditor’s demand for additional payment even after the repossession. Far more detail with legal citations is found in NCLC’s Repossessions, a comprehensive legal treatise on consumer rights when dealing with motor vehicle repossessions.
You can read the full article on the NCLC Digital Library website by clicking on any of the links in this post or by following this address: https://library.nclc.org/motor-vehicle-repossessions-consumer-debt-advice-nclc.
This article, Dealing with Medical Debt: Consumer Advice from NCLC, is the first in a series of articles from NCLC (National Consumer Law Center) that provide advice for families in financial difficulty. The Consumer Debt Advice series, targeted directly to the consumer, includes information about legal rights and best strategies for dealing with debt.
The first article in the series focuses on medical debt, including debt owed to hospitals, doctors, dentists, and other providers. Far more detail with legal citations on consumer rights dealing with medical debt is found in National Consumer Law Center, Collection Actions Chapter 9, updated at www.nclc.org/library.
The article addresses the following:
- Don’t Pay Medical Debt Ahead of Other Debt or Borrow to Pay Medical Debt
- Debt Collectors and Medical Debt
- Limits on Credit Reporting of Medical Debt
- Can a Hospital Turn You Away If You Owe It Money?
- Correcting Your Medical Bills
- Requesting Financial Assistance
- Will a Health Care Provider Sue You for Unpaid Bills?
You can read the full article on the NCLC Digital Library website by clicking on any of the links in this post or by following this address: https://library.nclc.org/dealing-medical-debt-consumer-advice-nclc.