Following Gov. Mike Dewine’s declaration of a state of emergency due to the coronavirus (“COVID-19”) pandemic, Ohio legislators have introduced numerous emergency measures to address the public health and economic crises facing the State. This includes a bill introduced on March 25 by Rep. Thomas West (D-Canton), which would require creditors and debt collectors to stop collection activities during the state of emergency. The bill is modeled after a similar bill introduced in the United States Senate by Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio).
The proposed legislation, which, if enacted would go into effect immediately, is intended to protect consumers and small business owners from collections efforts until after the COVID-19 emergency has subsided. It contains prohibitions against:
- Harassing phone calls;
- Disconnecting electricity and other utilities;
- Charging higher interest or penalty fees; and
- Lawsuits to collect debts, evictions, garnishments, and other efforts to collect on the debt.
When introducing the bill, Rep. Thomas West emphasized the need to speed up the recovery from the pandemic, stating:
During this unprecedented crisis, Ohio families and small businesses should not have to worry about the looming threat of debts and associated fees that they simply cannot afford to pay at this time. We must give hardworking Ohioans a chance to recover and rebuild from the devastating effects of this outbreak.
We will continue to monitor the status of the proposed Ohio legislation and similar measures being introduced around the country to help keep you aware of and in compliance with the changes in the law during these trying times.