California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order on Thursday protecting most Californians receiving federal, state, or local government financial assistance in response to the CCP virus pandemic from having their funds garnished by debt collectors.
“The executive order denies the ability for debt collectors to garnish your CARES Act dollars,” Newsom said at a press briefing Thursday. “If you’re a debt collector and you did garnish those contributions, those checks, you gotta give them back.”
Newsom said that the order (pdf) is retroactive and effective immediately. There are exceptions for individuals who owe child, spousal, or victim support—in these cases, checks can be garnished, he explained.
Americans are entitled to financial assistance of up to $1,200, depending on income, as part of a one-time payment under the $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act which was passed by Congress at the end of March.
Separately, Newsom announced that 21 of California’s largest student loan services will offer a 90-day forbearance on student loan debt. This includes more than 1.1 million Californians with privately held student loans.
“Californians are reeling from the financial impact of COVID-19; the recently unemployed and those with student loan debt are among the hardest hit,” Newsom said in a statement. “The last thing they deserve is to see more money withheld as they try to put food on the table and pay their rent or mortgage.”
No late fees or fines will be issued under agreement, and credit scores will not be impacted.
“These actions will help those Californians who are impacted the most by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Newsom’s office said in a news release.
It came as the nation’s most populous state on Thursday recorded its deadliest day since the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus outbreak began, recording 115 deaths in 24 hours.
“Yesterday was the deadliest day for this virus in this state. A hundred and fifteen human beings lost their lives, families torn apart,” Newsom said. “It’s also a reminder we’re not out of the woods yet.”
The governor noted that it was an 8.5 percent increase compared to deaths recorded the day before, and a rise of 5.6 percent in positive cases in the state. He added, however, that the number of those in intensive care and those hospitalized due to the CCP virus had decreased.
Newsom urged Californians to continue to adhere to social distancing measures this weekend as the weather warms. He said Thursday that the state’s beaches would be an irresistible lure to the state’s 40 million residents, who have been largely confined to their homes since mid-March.
“We’re walking into a very warm weekend. People are prone to want to go to the beaches, parks, playgrounds, and go on a hike, and I anticipate there will be significant increase in volume,” the governor said.
“But I also think if there is and people aren’t practicing physical distancing, I’ll be announcing again these numbers going back up,” Newsom said.
California’s beaches are under a patchwork of state and local jurisdictions, which means some have remained open while others were shut.
Los Angeles County closed all its beaches—including parking lots, bike paths, showers, and restrooms—during the CCP virus outbreak, but leaders in neighboring Orange County voted to keep some open.
Reuters contributed to this report