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Brexit wins at the polls in the U.K.; major changes come to New England immigration courts today; and more than a million acres in California have been cleared for oil and gas drilling.

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The House passes legislation to reign in drug prices, Sen. Bernie Sanders is on the upswing, and entrepreneur Andrew Yang plays Iowa congressional candidate J.D. Scholten - who's running against long-time incumbent Steve King - in a game of basketball.

Report: OR Debt Collection Laws Make "Fresh Starts" Tough

PHOTO: The National Consumer Law Center says many states, including Oregon, allow debt collectors to seize so much property and wages that it's harder for people in debt to regain their financial footing. Photo credit: iStockphoto.com.
PHOTO: The National Consumer Law Center says many states, including Oregon, allow debt collectors to seize so much property and wages that it's harder for people in debt to regain their financial footing. Photo credit: iStockphoto.com.
October 11, 2013

SALEM, Ore. – Oregon laws allow debt collectors to take more than they should, according to a new report that compares state laws based on whether they make it possible for people in financial trouble to recover when they've fallen behind on bills.

The report, No Fresh Start, gives Oregon failing grades for minimal protection of a debtor's home, car and household goods, and for allowing paychecks to be garnished for amounts over the minimum wage.

Angela Martin, executive director of Economic Fairness Oregon, says the laws can make it tough to live, let alone repay a debt.

"If you're a minimum-wage earner in Oregon, working 40 hours a week, a debt collector can garnish your wages down to $268 a week,” she explains. “That's less than the federal poverty level for a two-person family."

Oregon is one of about 20 states that got failing grades in the report for the amounts debt collectors are allowed to garnish from wages.

Robert Hobbs, deputy director of the National Consumer Law Center, which released the report, says it includes a sample law that allows a person to keep enough of his or her property to hold a job and keep from falling further behind.

"What we're trying to do with this model law is raise the platform in terms of property that's exempt,” he says, “So that somebody – when they are re-employed – is not bombarded by debt collectors. So that they have the tools they need to move up and eventually pay off their creditors in an orderly way."

Hobbs says some states' exemption laws date back centuries and need to be modernized.

Martin adds last year, more than 30,000 Oregonians found themselves dealing with lawsuits from debt buyers, third-party companies that are the sources of many debt-collection complaints.

"These are companies that purchase old credit card debt, old medical debt, for pennies on the dollar,” she explains. “Too often, the individual doesn't even understand that they're being sued until they're presented with a garnishment letter from their employer."

Martin says the Oregon Legislature already increased the wage and property exemptions for people in bankruptcy. She thinks similar changes should be made for those dealing with collection agencies.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR