WA State wage garnishments on consumer debt suspended during coronavirus

On April 14, 2020, Washington Governor Jay Inslee released Proclamation 20-49, ordering a temporary stay of all new consumer debt judgment garnishments, as well as a stay of enforcement of any garnishment order already issued for a consumer debt judgment. The order applies only to judgments for “consumer debts,” which Proclamation 20-49 and Revised Code of Washington 6.01.060(2) define as “any obligation or deemed obligation of a consumer to pay money flowing [from] a transaction… [that was] primarily for personal, family or household purposes. Consumer debt includes medical debt.

The proclamation prohibits garnishments of wages, consumer bank accounts or other income, including stimulus payments received under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, to satisfy these consumer debt judgments. The order also suspends accrual of postjudgment interest on all consumer debt judgments.

According to the proclamation, garnishment orders for consumer debt judgments, combined with “increasing interest” on those debts, will further reduce the ability of Washington residents who have already been negatively impacted by the economic downturn to pay. basic household expenses. Based on this, Governor Inslee found that consumer debt garnishment orders unreasonably increased risk to life, health and safety in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Washington employers who were in the process of seizing employee earnings under consumer debt judgments were required to suspend those seizures effective April 14, 2020 and ensure that the earnings of any employee making the subject to consumer debt writs do not have garnished wages for the effective period of the proclamation. Employers can still receive new writs to garnish employee wages for non-consumer debt judgments, such as child support judgments, and employers must still comply with all such legal garnishment orders. A willful violator of the garnishment order may be guilty of a serious offense and subject to criminal penalties.

Proclamation 20-49 was issued pursuant to Washington law emergency powers legal provisions. Under these provisions, the proclamation is only effective for 30 days, or until May 14, 2020, unless the proclamation is withdrawn or properly extended in accordance with Washington law. As governor Inslee has already indicated, the state”Stay Home – Stay Healthy” order will likely be extended beyond its current expiry date of May 14, 2020, and we anticipate that it will also extend the stay of customer debt garnishment orders.

Ogletree Deakins will continue to monitor and report on developments regarding the COVID-19 pandemic and will post updates in the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Resource Center as additional information becomes available.

© 2022, Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, PC, All rights reserved.National Law Review, Volume X, Number 119

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