Like most industries today, Consumer Finance Services businesses are being significantly impacted by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Troutman Pepper has developed a dedicated COVID-19 Resource Center to guide clients through this unprecedented global health challenge. We regularly update this site with COVID-19 news and developments, recommendations from leading health organizations, and tools that businesses can use free of charge.
To help you keep abreast of relevant activities, below is a breakdown of some of the biggest COVID-19 driven events at the Federal and State levels to impact the Consumer Finance Services industry this past week:
Privacy and Cybersecurity Activities
- On July 29, 2020, the Federal Reserve announced the extension of its temporary U.S. dollar liquidity swap lines and the temporary repurchase agreement facility for foreign and international monetary authorities through March 31, 2021. These facilities were established in March 2020 to ease strains in global dollar funding markets resulting from the COVID-19 emergency and mitigate the effect of strains on the supply of credit to households and businesses, both domestically and abroad. For more information, click here.
- On July 29, 2020, Senators Chris Van Hollen and Chris Murphy introduced the COVID-19 Medical Debt Collection Relief Act, S.4350, in the Senate. This bill would prevent healthcare providers from taking “extraordinary” collection actions for up to 18 months after the bill becomes law as a means of protecting consumers during the coronavirus pandemic. The bill defines “extraordinary” collection actions as selling debt to a third party, reporting the debt to a credit bureau, denying medical care, placing a lien on a property, foreclosing on a property, seizing property or funds from a bank account, commencing a civil action, and garnishing an individual’s wages. All extraordinary collection actions would be suspended for the covered period, which started on February 1, 2020 and continues until either the public health emergency is declared over or 18 months after the bill becomes law, whichever occurs later. For more information, click here.
- On July 29, 2020, the Federal Reserve Board issued its Federal Open Market Committee Statement. The statement expresses the Board’s commitment “to using its full range of tools to support the U.S. economy in this challenging time, thereby promoting its maximum employment and price stability goals.” To read the full statement, click here.
- On July 28, 2020, the Federal Reserve Board announced an extension through December 31, 2020 of its lending facilities that were set to expire on or around September 30, 2020. The three-month extension will facilitate planning by potential facility participants and provide certainty that the facilities will continue to be available to help the economy recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. The extensions apply to the Primary Dealer Credit Facility, the Money Market Mutual Fund Liquidity Facility, the Primary Market Corporate Credit Facility, the Secondary Market Corporate Credit Facility, the Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility, the Paycheck Protection Program Liquidity Facility, and the Main Street Lending Program. For more information, click here.
- On July 27, 2020, Representative Joyce Beatty introduced the Consumer Relief During COVID-19 Act, H.R. 7796, in the House of Representatives. This bill would limit what creditors and debt collectors can do to recover unpaid debts when a national emergency has been declared and for a period of 120 days when the declaration is over. The bill has been referred to the House Financial Services Committee for consideration. For more information, click here.
- On July 23, 2020, the Senate unanimously passed S. 3841. This bill protects stimulus funds provided under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) from being garnished by private debt collectors. While the CARES Act allows Congress to provide stimulus checks to many struggling Americans, it does not protect these payments from being garnished by private debt collectors. As part of S. 3841, for electronic payments of CARES Act stimulus checks, the Treasury Department will encode payments so that banks can protect them from being garnished by debt collectors. For non-electronic payments, S. 3841 allows individuals to request that their financial institution protect these payments from debt collection garnishment. If S. 3841 becomes law, it would amend the CARES Act and potentially apply retroactively to past payments. For more information, click here.
- On July 20, 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor published additional guidance for workers and employers on how the protections and requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) affect the workplace as workplaces reopen amid the coronavirus pandemic. The guidance from the Department’s Wage and Hour Division includes commonly asked questions and answers that address critical issues in all three laws. For more information, click here.
- On July 17, 2020, New York Attorney General Letitia James extended the suspension of debt collection for medical and student debt owed to the state of New York for 30 days, through August 15, 2020. Interest accrual and collection of fees on outstanding state medical and student debt are suspended until August 15, 2020 as well. For more information, click here.
- On July 16, 2020, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law the Emergency Rent Relief Act, which aims to support low-income renters in New York state whose ability to pay rent has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic by distributing rent vouchers directly to their landlords. The Emergency Rent Relief Act established New York’s COVID Rent Relief Program (Program). The Program, funded by the CARES Act and administered by New York State Homes and Community Renewal, provides up to $100 million of rent relief for low-income tenants who lost income between April and July as a result of the pandemic. For more information, click here.
Privacy and Cybersecurity Activities:
- On July 31, 2020, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reminded companies that advertisements for health-related products during the COVID-19 pandemic must not include deceptive claims. The FTC continues to send hundreds of companies warning letters relating to their marketing of COVID-19 products and services. The FTC also recently filed a case against Golden Sunrise relating to such deceptive claims. To read the full announcement, click here.
- On July 31, 2020, U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) cautioned all asset owners and operators of critical infrastructure control systems against cybersecurity attacks. These organizations are targets from “adversaries including nation-states, transnational groups, and criminal gangs” seeking to disrupt critical systems, such as electrical grids and water systems. Click here to read the full notification.
- On July 29, 2020, the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) announced its upcoming Annual National Cybersecurity Summit. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, however, the event will be held virtually as a series of webinars released weekly, beginning September 16, 2020. The event will focus on key cyber insights, leading the digital transformation, diversity in cybersecurity, and defending our democracy. Click here to view the announcement.
- On July 28, 2020, the Department of Energy (DOE), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced a new partnership called the COVID-19 Insights Partnership. The partnership aims to “coordinate and share health data as well as research and expertise to aid in the fight against COVID-19.” The partnership plans to achieve this through the development of a framework where the HHS and VA will “utilize DOE’s world-leading high-performance computing […] and artificial intelligence resources to conduct COVID-19 research and analyze health data that would otherwise not be possible.” To read the full announcement, click here.
- On July 28, 2020, the HHS issued a new report showing a dramatic use of telehealth services for primary care delivery under Medicare. The report describes how telehealth flexibilities “helped spur and maintain Medicare beneficiaries’ access to their primary care providers.” The report indicates that there may be continued support in telehealth post-pandemic = suggesting policymakers, providers, and patients may seek to adjust existing regulations. To read the full report, click here.
- On July 28, 2020, Massachusetts Attorney General, Maura Healey, called for HHS’s withdrawal of a directive that strips the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of COVID-19 data. AG Healey argues that the Trump Administration’s “decision to bypass the CDC in this national crisis harms the nation’s ability to track and respond to the pandemic, hampers state and local public health efforts to address the crisis in their communities, risks compromising the health data of millions of Americans, and undermines public confidence in any reports about COVID-19 coming from the federal government.” To read the full report, click here.
- On July 28, 2020, U.S. Senators asked for the inclusion of a privacy bill in the next stimulus package. The letter describes that a bill should include “commonsense and widely understood rules related to the collection, retention and usage of that information – most notably, stipulating that sensitive data collected under the auspices of efforts to contain COVID should not be used for unrelated purposes.” Check out the letter by clicking here.
- On July 28, 2020, the California State University school system requested that a judge dismiss a proposed class action on Monday, contending that fee refunds relating to COVID-19 do not belong in court. Click here to read the motion.
- In late July of 2020, NIST released a study showing that 89 facial recognition applications had trouble identifying individuals wearing face masks. Research showed that “some algorithms that are quite competitive with unmasked faces fail to authenticate between 20% and 50% of images.” This research comes on the heels of Texas’ recent announcement relating to an investigation on Facebook’s biometric data practices, and news about Rite Aid’s facial recognition tactics.