(WASHINGTON, D.C.) — Congressman Jamie Raskin (MD-08) today joined Rep. Judy Chu (CA-27), Chair of the House Small Business Subcommittee on Investigations, Oversight, and Regulations, and Rep. Joseph Morelle (NY-25) in sending a letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Interal Revenu Service (IRS) Commissioner Charles Rettig urging them to use existing regulatory authority to prevent financial institutions from garnishing the stimulus checks to Americans during the coronavirus crisis. The stimulus checks were passed by Congress on March 27, 2020, as part of the CARES Act, to help all Americans weather the economic slowdown. But on an April 10 call, it was reported that an official with the Treasury’s Bureau of the Fiscal Service confirmed that banks would be free to garnish payments from deposits if they were owed an outstanding payment. Reps. Chu and Morelle issued the following statements:

“During this time of crisis, banks and other debt collectors should not be profiting at the expense of the most vulnerable. But that is exactly what Treasury has given them the green light to do, by allowing them to garnish payments from direct deposits Congress intended to be used to stimulate the economy,” said Rep. Chu. “With businesses closing and the unemployment rate the highest it has been since the Great Depression, many American families are struggling to afford food or pay the bills. That is why Congress took such drastic action to provide the largest stimulus in history. To then take that money out of the pockets of those who need it is counterproductive, and leaves those who need help even worse off. These checks are intended to help families, not be a cash advance to private companies. We urge Treasury to act immediately to prevent these garnishments and put American families first.”

“Congress took action to provide much-needed relief for families struggling with the impacts of COVID-19 by authorizing direct cash payments to Americans,” said Rep. Morelle. “Reports that a loophole may allow banks to seize and redirect that payment to pay off debt are not only troubling, but run directly contrary to the intent of the legislation. I’m proud to join Congresswoman Chu in calling on the Department of Treasury to rectify this immediately and ensure families receive the full payments they need and deserve.”

The letter was signed by more than 65 House Members, including: Reps. Don Beyer, Earl Blumenauer, Suzanne Bonamici, André Carson, Joaquin Castro, David Cicilline, Gilbert R. Cisneros, Jr., Katherine M. Clark, Yvette D. Clarke, Steve Cohen, Jim Cooper, Danny K. Davis, Peter A. DeFazio, Diana DeGette, Suzan K. DelBene, Mike Doyle, Eliot L. Engel, Veronica Escobar, Adriano Espaillat, Dwight Evans, Tulsi Gabbard, Sylvia R. Garcia, Jahana Hayes, Brian Higgins, Pramila Jayapal, Henry C. “Hank” Johnson, Jr., Eddie Bernice Johnson, Marcy Kaptur, Joseph P. Kennedy, III, Daniel T. Kildee, Andy Kim, John B. Larson, Barbara Lee, Sean Patrick Maloney, Carolyn B. Maloney, James P. McGovern, Gwen Moore, Jerrold Nadler, Grace F. Napolitano, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Jimmy Panetta, Chris Pappas, Bill Pascrell, Chellie Pingree, Mark Pocan, Mike Quigley, Kathleen M. Rice, Cedric L. Richmond, Lucille Roybal-Allard, Tim Ryan, Jan Schakowsky, José E. Serrano, Terri A. Sewell, Adam Smith, Darren Soto, Jackie Speier, Thomas R. Suozzi, Mark Takano, Dina Titus, Rashida Tlaib, Paul D. Tonko, Xochitl Torres Small, Nydia M. Velázquez, Bonnie Watson Coleman, Susan Wild.

The letter is available here.