Gov. Andrew Cuomo has paused the collection of medical and student debt owed to New York State, ordered evictions halted and put a 90-day stay on mortgage payments and foreclosures for owners facing financial hardship.
But one key function of the legal system is chugging along unabated amid the coronavirus crisis: the collection of private debts through New York’s courts.
This week, as the governor ordered most court operations to stop, creditors of all kinds kept filing actions against people and businesses, court records show.
In New York County alone, the docket between Monday and Friday shows dozens of debt cases.
Among them: a debt buyer seeking a $35,826.73 judgment against a Manhattan man, a bank going after a $110,000 loan to a Little Italy pharmacy and a request to enforce a confession of judgment on a $96,247.56 cash advance to a Bronx medical case management group.
Sarah Ludwig, co-director of the New Economy Project, said her group has been flooded with calls to its legal hotline from New Yorkers getting hit with cases even as the city all but shuts down.
“Clearly, this is not the moment to be depriving people of their funds and subjecting them to a situation where their bank accounts are frozen,” she said.
Some of those she’s heard from “can’t get at their money to pay for food and medicine and all of the things we [all] desperately need to protect ourselves.”
The issue led her group to sign a letter with more than 60 other organizations — from racial and economic justice outfits to labor organizations to community activists — asking Cuomo and Chief Judge Janet DiFiore for an emergency moratorium on all debt collection in the state.
That would include an end to enforcement of judgments, a pause on all garnishments and levies, and stopping attorneys from serving debt collection orders.