Legal Aid successfully keeps creditor from garnishing stimulus check of unemployed, pregnant mother

The financial impact of COVID-19 can be felt across the world, but for one Nebraska woman, the struggle to provide for her family was reaching its breaking point.

Danielle* is a single mother raising a small child with another on the way. She was laid off during the coronavirus pandemic and, with her daycare closed and no one to care for her child, hasn’t been able to get another job. The financial strain has left her behind on rent and utilities.

Fortunately, Danielle received her CARES Act stimulus check in April and was able to buy groceries, but just as she was about to pay her electrical and rent bills, she checked her bank account and found it empty.

A creditor had successfully garnished Danielle’s stimulus check through her bank account because of a past debt. Former roommates of Danielle’s had stopped paying rent after she moved out and the accrued debt has followed Danielle ever since. The creditor seized $1,350 from Danielle’s bank account at a time when she needed it most.

Danielle made the right decision by calling Legal Aid of Nebraska’s COVID-19 Disaster Relief Hotline. Her case was immediately assigned to Legal Aid attorney, Lea Wroblewski, who was able to appear telephonically before the court and achieved a positive outcome for Danielle. The funds were determined to be exempt from garnishment because she had less than $5,000 in personal property. The judge ordered the money be returned to Danielle.

Because of these quickly changing times, Legal Aid is more important than ever. In Danielle’s case, Wroblewski was able to appear by phone and file electronically – two things Danielle wouldn’t have been able to do since a pro se person isn’t allowed to e-file and can only attend hearings by telephone if he or she knows how to request it.

“We are considering bank garnishments an emergency,” Wroblewski said. “People need all the money they have right now. We’re able to handle the case quickly and without the client or our staff risking exposure.”

By handling cases in this way, Legal Aid is helping our clients keep their desperately needed funds, while also keeping the community at large safe by decreasing the amount of people in the courts.

If you or someone you know has a COVID-19 legal issue, please contact our COVID-19 Disaster Relief Hotline at 1-844-268-5627 or apply online at LawHelpNE.org.

*Name has been changed.

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Legal Aid of Nebraska’s free COVID-19 Disaster Relief Hotline is available to Nebraskans affected by COVID-19 and in need of legal assistance at: 1-844-268-5627. Hosted by Legal Aid of Nebraska, working closely with the Nebraska State Bar Association’s Volunteer Lawyers Project (VLP), this Hotline aims to make key legal assistance easy and accessible during the COVID-19 public health emergency.

Legal Aid of Nebraska depends on the support of our communities to provide equal access to justice for all Nebraskans, ultimately strengthening our communities statewide. If you’d like to make a contribution to Legal Aid, you can do so here: https://legalaidofnebraska.thankyou4caring.org/donate

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