- State Updates: Nevada, New York
- Federal Update: HEROES Act
- RMAI COVID-19 Resources
State Updates: Reopening Guidance and Court Operations
Nevada Financial Institutions Division – Collection Agencies Can Operate
The Nevada Financial Institutions Division (FID) released updated guidance today advising that collection agency licensees can operate their business while following state and federal orders and guidance. To view the FID letter, click here.
Nevada Directive for Phase Two Reopening Plan in Effect through June 30, 2020
On May 28, 2020, the Governor of the State of Nevada ordered the gradual reopening of the state in accordance with its phased plan. The order took effect immediately and extends through June 30, 2020, unless otherwise stated. The new restrictions affect businesses, licensed establishments, and consumers. Though not identified by name or function, debt collection agencies, debt buyers and collection law firms, fall within the general category described in the order as businesses performing non-retail services. Under the new order, businesses performing non-retail services, including but not limited to, legal services, accounting services, or real estate services, are encouraged to conduct business telephonically or virtually to the greatest extent practicable and permit employees to work from home to the greatest extent practicable.
Certain other businesses can open on a restricted basis. In no event are gatherings of more than 50 people permitted. To the maximum extent practicable, employers and employees are strongly encouraged to incorporate the following protocols into their business operations:
- Encourage customers to wear face coverings
- Continue to encourage telework, whenever possible and feasible with business operations
- Return to work in phases
- Close common areas where personnel are likely to congregate and interact, or enforce strict social distancing protocols
- Strongly consider special accommodations for personnel who are members of a vulnerable population (vulnerable person is a defined term in the order)
- Encourage employees to do a self-assessment each day in order to check if they have any COVID-19 type symptoms; for example, fever, cough or shortness of breath
- Practice hand hygiene
- Perform frequent enhanced environmental cleaning of commonly touched surfaces
- Implement separate operating hours for vulnerable populations
- Provide signage advising the public of appropriate social distancing within the facility, including six feet of social distancing from other individuals
- Provide readily available hand sanitizer or other sanitizing products for employees and customers
- Accommodate vulnerable persons (e.g. individuals who are 65 years of age and older; individuals with certain lung, heart, or autoimmune diseases, or determined to be high risk)
So, what does this mean? Nevada is gradually reopening many consumer facing establishments, albeit with conditions in place. A literal reading of the order suggests non-retail businesses such as collection agencies, debt buyers and collection law firms may reopen, but they are strongly encouraged to support the work from home model. For reference you may review the Governor’s prior restrictions on debt collection activities, which expired on May 30.
The continued protection of vulnerable persons remains a strong theme throughout the order. This means employers, including members of RMAI who employ a vulnerable person, must make special accommodations for these individuals, including but not limited to, allowing them to work from home until the COVID-19 state of emergency is completely lifted. Members are also well advised to adapt their collection activities for vulnerable persons. Continue to extend your financial hardship program to vulnerable individuals and suspend or waive payments or interest or both, when and if you think such an accommodation is warranted.
New York State In-Person Courthouse Operations Restored
On June 1, 2020, the Chief Judge of State of New York announced in-person courthouse operations, including the commencement of new lawsuits and other court filings via New York State Courts Electronic Filing (NYSCEF) or regular mail, are restored in every region outside the city of New York. In New York City, courthouse operations remain limited to new matters being commenced in those courts that use NYSCEF, including the Surrogate’s Courts. New York City is the only region in the state that has not yet met the benchmarks for reopening.
Based on Governor Cuomo’s prediction New York City will reopen on June 8. The Chief Judge anticipates judges and court staff who work at the courthouses throughout the five boroughs will return to work on this date.
So, what does this mean? Members who practice in the State of New York or engage in legal collection activities should be mindful of the court systems’ new normal. As the courts continue toward fuller in-person court operations in New York City and across the state, operational best practices and safety measures will be followed, including continued use of virtual technology to reduce courthouse traffic, staggered scheduling, COVID-19 screening, personal distancing, facemasks and other PPE, sanitizing agents, regular cleaning, acrylic barriers, and other measures that can be reasonably and responsibly implemented. For additional information about the safety practices imposed by a court, members may contact the court administrator for further guidance.
Members may find it interesting to note, in the past two weeks, over 630 attorneys in the state have volunteered to provide free legal representation in the Surrogate’s Courts to thousands of financially disadvantaged individuals and families who lost their loved ones as a result of the pandemic. This means individuals who may not otherwise have access to legal representation may have access today. Continued sensitivity toward those individuals impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic is warranted in connection with the collection of debts, filing lawsuits, seizing property or attaching bank accounts.
Federal Update: RMAI Comments on HEROES Act
On June 1, 2020, on behalf of its members, RMAI sent letters to both the Senate Banking Committee and House Financial Services Committee regarding the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act or the HEROES Act. The HEROES Act passed the House on May 15th and now awaits action in the Senate.
In its letters to the respective Committees, RMAI focused on three proposals included in the HEROES Act and the unintended consequences of each, should the bill be passed into law.
- First, it explained legislative proposals that would prohibit the reporting of negative credit information during and for an extended period after the COVID-19 pandemic concludes would have the unintended effect of preventing consumers from improving their credit reports.
- Second, it proffered legislative proposals to prohibit collection efforts would result in economic insecurity for tens of thousands of workers.
- Third, it made clear, any mandatory consumer debt forbearance program should be made available to consumers who provide at least minimum documentation demonstrating their financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
So, what does this mean? The HEROES Act as proposed does not appear to be gaining traction. However, Members of Congress continue to express a general concern about the collection of consumer debt during a national state of emergency such as the COVID-19 pandemic. Even if the HEROES Act is not passed into law, many of its provisions may find their way into similar legislation or even unrelated regulatory relief bills. For this reason, RMAI has advocated against the proposals in the bill most likely to harm the collection and debt purchasing industry.
RMAI COVID-19 Resources
RMAI provides timely and informative updates to members through Member Alerts (like this one) and webinars. RMAI members have complimentary access to all recorded webinars.
RMAI’s Commitment to Consumers and FAQs. The communication is posted in the Resources for Businesses, Employers and Consumers section of the COVID-19 resource page as well as on the Consumers page of the RMAI website.
This alert is intended for members of the Receivables Management Association International and is for informational purposes only and is in no way intended to provide legal advice. Members are encouraged to consult with an attorney of their choice for legal advice concerning this matter.