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Walz executive order protects COVID-19 aid from debt collectors

The action drew comment from GOP lawmakers, who have called for an end to Walz's emergency powers.

Gov. Tim Walz issued an executive order Monday exempting COVID-19 relief funds from garnishment.

Executive Order 20-50 prevents emergency aid from federal, state, tribal or local governments from being intercepted by third-party debt collectors during Minnesota’s peacetime emergency.

This includes the recovery rebates from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES), which granted $1,200 to eligible individuals, $2,400 to eligible couples and $500 for eligible dependents.

“These government emergency support funds should go toward their intended purpose – ensuring the health and safety of Minnesotans by allowing them to afford their lives during the COVID-19 pandemic," Walz said.

"These support funds should not be intercepted by third parties or immediately garnished for consumer debt incurred before the COVID-19 pandemic."

The order also notes the federal government took similar action in March by suspending wage garnishment for defaulted federal student loans.

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Over the weekend, Republican lawmakers called on an end to the governor's peacetime emergency powers, with House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt (R-Crown), threatening to block a major capital investment bill if that doesn’t happen.

Walz's latest Executive Order led to criticism from Rep. Mary Franson (R-Alexandria), who said she proposed a similar bill regarding emergency aid garnishment to the Legislature in April.

“This situation underscores exactly why the governor’s emergency powers should come to an end,” she said.

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