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In Massachusetts, consumer debt collection cases represent a significant obstacle to economic security for many low-income consumers, accounting for a significant portion of civil court case dockets, photo by RDNE Stock project on Pexels.com

During National Consumer Protection Week, AG Campbell announces $800,000 grant program to expand access to legal services for consumers facing unlawful debt collection

Seeking applicants by March 22nd, the new grant furthers AG Campbell’s priority to advance economic opportunity and consumer justice by funding legal services organizations that protect low-income consumers from unlawful asset and income seizures

Editor’s Note: The following article is derived from officially released information, published with few or no editorial changes. The Greylock Glass  occasionally provides our readers with such content if the information is factual in nature, and requires little to no interpretation or analysis, often when original reportage would not provide additional relevant information.

BOSTON – During National Consumer Protection Week, Attorney General Andrea Joy Campbell announced a new grant that will provide up to $800,000 in funding to nonprofit legal services organizations offering legal assistance to low-income consumers who are vulnerable to unlawful asset and income seizures by debt collectors and creditors.

The Protecting Consumers from Unlawful Seizures by Creditors Grant, which is AG Campbell’s latest effort to further one of her recently announced strategic priorities to advance economic opportunity and consumer justice for all, will expand access to legal representation by helping organizations establish new lawyer-for-the-day programs or supplement existing ones. These programs offer legal services to low-income consumers in debt collection cases free of charge. By helping to expand access to legal services, this grant program will help ensure that creditors and debt collectors comply with fair debt collection laws and that consumers are protected from unlawful seizures.

The grant will support organizations that seek to strengthen advocacy efforts for consumers who are the subject of unlawful property seizures, secure legal representation for consumers with existing judgments, bolster community engagement efforts, such as know-your-rights presentations, and offer trainings for the pro-bono legal community.

“To advance consumer justice for all, it is critical that we support organizations that provide legal services for low-income consumers who we know are most vulnerable to unlawful seizures of their income and assets,” said AG Campbell. “Legal services organizations play a vital role in ensuring that consumers have access to counsel, and this grant will provide funding to support this important work.”

In Massachusetts, consumer debt collection cases represent a significant obstacle to economic security for many low-income consumers, accounting for a significant portion of civil court case dockets. In fact, it is not uncommon for at least 40% of small claims cases in a single court to be filed by four debt buyers alone. In most debt collection cases, low-income consumer defendants do not have legal representation to inform them of their rights. Many consumer debt collection cases result in a default judgment in favor of the creditor plaintiff because debtors are often unaware that a debt collection case has even been filed against them. Many of these defendants only learn about such default judgments months or even years later when a creditor uses that judgment to garnish their wages or seize their personal assets to satisfy the judgment. Therefore, legal services organizations play a vital role in ensuring that debtors have access to legal counsel and are able to exercise their rights, such as those that protect certain income from being seized. 

The grant program will be funded with settlement funds resulting from a 2022 enforcement action by the AG’s Office related to unlawful debt collection practices by a national debt collection company. Eligibility for the grant program is limited to nonprofit organizations with a demonstrated history of providing free legal services, including lawyer-for-the-day programs and other consumer-related legalservices, on behalf of primarily low-income consumers. 

Interested applicants may visit the AG’s website for more information, including the full Request for Proposal and application instructions. Questions regarding this grant opportunity may be submitted to [email protected], only until 5 p.m. on March 15, 2024. When submitting your question(s), please include “Protecting Consumers’ Exempt Income and Assets Grant” in the email subject line.  

Applications must be received by 5:00 p.m. on March 22, 2024. Interested applicants may access the grant application on the AG’s Grant Application Portal.

This grant program was developed by Managing Attorney Sarah Petrie and Assistant Attorney General Colin Harnsgate, both of the AG’s Consumer Protection Division, and is managed by Director of Grants Management Nathan Gardner with assistance from Grants Coordinator Anthony Zero.

Individual consumers in need of assistance related to debt collection may file a consumer complaint with the AG’s Consumer Advocacy and Response Division.

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