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COVID-19: Licensing Guidance from State Agencies


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Updates on state guidance on compliance and licensing.

3/19/2020 11:00

ACA International is dedicated to providing members with resources on managing business operations during the coronavirus (COVID-19) national emergency and going forward.

The National Governors Association has multiple resources available on COVID-19 in the U.S. and actions in states and territories in response to the pandemic. The resources include a chart summarizing state actions and business re-openings. Implementation of various state plans are changing all the time and the changes often do not directly impact the accounts receivable management industry (i.e. parks, restaurants, construction, curbside deliveries.) Members are encouraged to check the chart for their state updates while ACA will continue to highlight specific changes for the industry on a regular basis.

The Nationwide Multistate Licensing System & Registry (NMLS) has created a webpage for communication and guidance updates from state licensing agencies as they are released. A link to state agency contacts is also available.

The Conference of State Bank Supervisors also has similar helpful COVID-19 updates on its website.

North American Collection Agency Regulatory Association (NACARA) is providing the following information and guidance for financial services companies and consumers.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has also issued guidance on essential critical infrastructure many states are following in their orders.

Following are additional updates from state regulatory agencies obtained by ACA's Vice President of Government and State Affairs Andy Madden:

Alabama Stay-at-Home Order and Guidance for Businesses

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey announced the state will begin reopening the economy in a series of phases beginning Thursday, April 30, at 5 p.m. An amended Safer at Home Order is in place through July 3, 2020. 

Effective May 11, and unless otherwise permitted or required by this order, all employers shall take reasonable steps, where practicable as work duties permit, to protect their employees by:

  • All all non-work related gatherings of any size, including drive-in gatherings, that cannot maintain a consistent six-foot distance between persons from different households are prohibited.
  • Maintaining six feet of separation between employees;
  • Regularly disinfecting frequently used items and surfaces;
  • Encouraging handwashing;
  • Preventing employees who are sick from coming into contact with other persons;
  • Facilitating remote working arrangements; and
  • Minimizing employee travel.

Arizona Department of Financial Institutions: Licensing Division (Home Page)

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey issued a Stay Healthy, Return Smarter, Return Stronger order on May 12, 2020.

Any business, whether for-profit or non-profit, institution, profession or entity that physically operats in this state and serves the public or is an employer shall develop, establish and implement policies based on guidance from the CDC, Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and ADHS to limit and mitigate the spread of COVID-19 including the following:

  • Promoting healthy hygiene practices;
  • Intensifying clearning, disinfection and ventilation practices;
  • Monitoring for sickness;
  • Ensuring physical distancing;
  • Providing necessary protective equipment;
  • Allowing for and encouraging teleworking when feasible;
  • Providing plans, where possible, to return to work in phases; and
  • Limiting the congregation of groups of no more than 10 persons when feasible and in relation to the size of the location.

The order is in place until further notice, and shall be reconsidered for repeal or revision at least every two weeks.

On May 4, retail businesses will be allowed to sell goods via drive-thru, pick-up, delivery or window service—provided they establish and implement sanitation and physical distancing measures. This “limited opening” will be for appointment-based services, limited occupancy, curbside pick-up and delivery.

Effective May 8, those businesses can begin offering their goods via in-store purchases if strict social distancing protocols are enforced. Note: This updated guidance applies to the act of selling goods, not services.

California

California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order to exempt Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act payments and any other federal, state or local government financial assistance made available to individuals in express response to the COVID-19 pandemic from any attachment, levy, execution, or garnishment unless in connection with any action for, or any judgment awarding, any child support, spousal support, or family support, or any criminal restitution payable to victims.

California is implementing stages of its Resilience Roadmap

California's previous stay-at-home order requires all Californians to stay in their place of residence “except as needed to maintain continuity of operations of the federal critical infrastructure sectors.

In short, this means non-essential businesses, including collection agencies, must close brick-and-mortar operations. Remote work, however, can continue—meaning that businesses may continue to operate with their staff telecommuting.

As a result, collections operations in California may continue with staff working remotely, from their place of residence, but agencies should be mindful of the challenges that telecommuting may impose under other state and federal laws, e.g., the FDCPA (for all third-party collectors), HIPAA (for medical debt collectors), and the California Consumer Privacy Act (for those subject to it).

Gov. Newsom also said the state is continuing implementation of the four-stage framework for reopening some lower-risk businesses. "Based on the state’s progress in meeting metrics tied to indicators, the state can begin to move into stage two of modifying the stay at home order Friday, May 8, with guidelines released Thursday, May 7," according to a news release.

Colorado Guidance for Businesses

Colorado is under a Safer-At-Home order, while some counties & cities are under a local stay at home order.

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis previously issued a directive April 27 outlining the state’s plan permitting the open of certain businesses and schools. The order is in effect for 30 days. Beginning on May 4, the new order permits non-critical commercial businesses to allow up to 50% of their employees to conduct in-person work that takes place outside a private residence in accordance with mandatory social distancing requirements and protocols.

Connecticut Department of Banking (Home Page)

The Connecticut Department of Banking extended its no-action memo to address branch licensing issues considering temporary mitigation actions licensees needed to take to continue business due to COVID-19 through Dec 31, 2020. The department’s no-action position concerns the requirement that any Connecticut licensable activity by a Consumer Credit Licensee be conducted from a licensed branch office location, as long as criteria are met:

  • The Connecticut licensable activity is conducted from the home location of an individual working on behalf of a Connecticut CC Licensee;
  • The individual is working from home due to a reason relating to the COVID-19 outbreak and has informed the Connecticut CC Licensee of such reason in writing;
  • The individual maintains all necessary licenses under Title 36a to conduct such Connecticut licensable activity, including, but not limited to, mortgage loan originator or loan processor or underwriter licensure, as applicable;
  • None of the Connecticut licensable activity will be conducted in person with members of the public from the home location; and
  • The Connecticut CC Licensee shall at all times exercise reasonable supervision of the Connecticut licensable activity being performed at the home office and ensure that appropriate safeguards and controls are established concerning consumer information and data security.

Gov. Ned Lamont directed all non-essential businesses and not-for-profit entities in Connecticut to prohibit all in-person functions if they are able to, effective Monday, March 23, 2020 and for the duration of the public health emergency. The governor is encouraging all businesses to employ, to the maximum extent possible, any telecommuting or work-from-home procedures that they can safely implement. The governor's executive order was in effect through May 31, 2020.

The latest order, as of June 14, allows some court operations in the state to resume.

Delaware Division of Small Business (Home Page)

On Monday, June 15, Gov. John Carney announced phase two of the state's reopening plan with general guidance for individuals and businesses; industry guidance to specific businesses within a particular industry; and individual business guidance.

On March 22, Gov. Carney issued modifications to his State of Emergency, ordering residents to stay home whenever possible and closing all non-essential businesses in response to COVID-19. Non-essential businesses can conduct the minimum necessary activities to facilitate employees of the business being able to work remotely or continue to work remotely from their residences.

Any agencies able to establish remote work options or with existing remote work options in place should be mindful of the challenges that telecommuting may impose under other state and federal laws, e.g., the FDCPA (for all third-party collectors), HIPAA (for medical debt collectors.) View the stay at home order, as well as a list of non-essential businesses and FAQ from the governor’s office for more information.

Also, the state issued guidance to businesses on COVID-19 including reviewing telework and flexible sick leave policies.

District of Columbia, Mayor's Office (Home Page)

District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine issued guidance on the debt collection provision of the COVID-19 Response Supplemental Emergency Act.

Mayor Muriel Bowser has extended the Washington, D.C. state of emergency through Dec. 31, 2020, leaving in place temporary debt collection restrictions.

The mayor has also issued a Prohibition on Mass Gatherings During Public Health Emergency. For more information on the District’s response, visit https://coronavirus.dc.gov/.

On June 8, Mayor Bowser signed a new consolidated Coronavirus Support Congressional Review Emergency Amendment Act of 2020, which contains all the previous restrictions on debt collection activites included in the original COVID-19 emergency response bill.

This measure amends Section 28-3814(m) of the D.C. Official Code pertaining to debt collection communication during a public health emergency, stating that during a public health emergency and for 60 days after its conclusion, no debt collector can initiate any communication with any debtor via any written or electronic communication, including email, text message, or telephone. A debt collector will not be deemed to have initiated a communication with a debtor if the communication by the debt collector is in response to a request made by the debtor for the communication or is the mailing of monthly statements or payment receipts related to an existing payment plan. This does not apply to receiving and depositing payments the debtor chooses to make during the public health emergency.

According to the bill:

(2) During a public health emergency and for 60 days after its conclusion, no creditor or debt collector shall, with respect to any debt:

(A) Initiate, file, or threaten to file any new collection lawsuit;

(B) Initiate, threaten to initiate, or act upon any statutory remedy for the garnishment, seizure, attachment, or withholding of wages, earnings, property, or funds for the payment of a debt to a creditor;

(C) Initiate, threaten to initiate, or act upon any statutory remedy for the repossession of any vehicle, provided that creditors or debt collectors may accept collateral that is voluntarily surrendered.

(m)(l) During a public health emergency and for 60 days after its conclusion, no debt collector shall initiate any communication with any debtor via any written or electronic communication, including email or text message, or telephone, provided that a debt collector shall not be deemed to have initiated a comnunication with a debtor if the communication by the debt collector is in response to a request made by the debtor for said communication.

(2) This subsection shall not apply to communications initiated solely for the purpose of informing a debtor of a rescheduled court appearance date or discussing a mutually convenient date for a rescheduled court appearance;

(3) This subsection shall not apply to original creditors collecting or attempting to collect their own debt, nor shall it apply to collecting or attempting to collect a debt which is, or is alleged to be, owed on a loan secured by a mortgage on real property.

On  May 29, Mayor Muriel Bowser lifted the stay at home order. For additional information and to view the city’s “Situational Update,” click here.

Florida Office of the Governor (Home Page)

Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an executive order outlining the state’s Phase 2: Safe. Smart. Step-by-Step. Plan for Florida's Recovery.  

Unless otherwise directed by the governor, the following applies to other business services affected by previous Executive Orders:

  • In-store retail sales establishments may open storefronts if they operate at no more than 25 % of their building occupancy and abide by the safety guidelines issued by the CDC and OSHA.
  • Museums and libraries may open at no more than 25 % of their building occupancy, provided, however, that (a) local public museums and local public libraries may operate only if permitted by local government, and (b) any components of museums or libraries that have interactive functions or exhibits.
  • Bars, pubs and nightclubs that derive more than 50 % of gross revenue from the sale of alcoholic beverages shall continue to suspend the sale of alcoholic beverages for on-premises consumption.
  • Restaurants and food establishments licensed under Chapters 500 or 509, Florida Statutes, may allow on-premises consumption of food and beverage, so long as they adopt appropriate social distancing measures and limit their indoor occupancy to no more than 25 % of their building occupancy. In addition, outdoor seating is permissible with appropriate social distancing.

Gov. DeSantis previously issued a statewide stay at home order effective until midnight on April 30, 2020 and a Phase 1 order for the state.

For purposes of this order and the conduct it limits, “essential services” to the list detailed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in its Guidance on the Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce and any subsequent lists published.

Essential services also include those businesses and activities designated by Executive Order 20-89 and its attachment which consists of a list propounded by Miami-Dade County in multiple orders. Order 20-89 includes banks and related financial institutions.

Georgia Stay at Home Order and Guidance for Businesses

Gov. Brian Kemp issued an "Empowering a Healthy Georgia" order on June 11 and in effect through June 30, 2020.

The governor previously extended the statewide shelter-at-home order until April 30, 2020.

The term "Critical Infrastructure" refers to businesses, establishments, corporations, non-profit corporations, and organizations as defined by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security as "essential critical infrastructure workforce" in guidance dated March 19, 2020, and revised on March 28, 2020, and those suppliers which provide essential goods and services to the critical infrastructure workforce as well as entities that provide legal services, home hospice, and non-profit corporations or non-profit organizations that offer food distribution or other health or mental health services. The operation of Critical Infrastructure shall not be impeded by county, municipal, or local ordinance.

Hawaii Office of the Governor (Home Page)

Gov. David Ige extended the stay at home order, originally set to expire on April 30, for an additional 14 days as the state begins its next phase for reopening, according to a news release.

Under the original proclamation, individuals may leave their home or place of residence only for essential activities, to engage in essential businesses and operations, and only if their work cannot be conducted through remote technology from home.

All businesses or operations not identified by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security as "essential critical infrastructure workforce" must cease.

Idaho Stay at Home Order and Business Guidance

The Idaho Department of Finance has extended its temporary guidance regarding remote work due to COVID-19 until Dec. 31.

The guidance pertains to the ability of individual employees of licensees to work from their own residence without obtaining an Idaho branch license or registration for the location under specific requirements. The intent of the guidance was to offer licensees the ability to continue business operations remotely while taking precautions to avoid the risk of exposure to COVID-19 and to comply with any quarantine requirements, stay-at-home orders and reopening limitations.

“The department recognizes that the continued spread of localized person-to-person cases of the virus has not significantly improved. As states and municipalities continue to lift stay-at-home orders in varying stages, licensees may still need to continue remote operations in certain locations,” according to the department’s memo.

The extension also allows licensees time to continue to evaluate whether it is beneficial to their businesses and their consumers to continue using remote operations.

This extended guidance may be modified or withdrawn by the director as conditions change or as otherwise directed by Gov. Brad Little.

Gov. Little replaced the expiring statewide stay home order with a new "Stay Healthy Order," which details the Stage One reopening of the state. More details on the full plan may be found at Rebound.Idaho.Gov

According to the governor, Stage One allows 90 % of businesses to open their doors on May 1. Businesses must follow protocols to ensure physical distancing, sanitation, and other measures detailed in the order.

Stage One includes:

  • Employees are encouraged to continue teleworking, and employers should return employees to work in phases.
  • Places of worship, daycares, and organized youth activities and day camps can reopen as long as they follow protocols.
  • The 14-day self-quarantine for people entering the state will continue, to prevent an influx of out-of-state visitors who could be carrying the virus into Idaho.
  • Vulnerable Idahoans should continue to stay at home if they can.
  • Gatherings of any size, both public and private, should be avoided.
  • Non-essential travel should be minimized or avoided.
  • Dine-in at restaurants must remain closed, but pick-up and delivery options will still available.
  • Indoor gyms, recreation facilities, and close contact services such as massage, hair and nail salons remain closed but can make plans to reopen on May 16 in Stage 2 if they follow protocols.
  • Bars, nightclubs, and large venues must remain closed.

Stage Two will begin on May 16 if the state meets criteria to progress to the next stage over the next two weeks.

Illinois Office of the Governor (Home Page)

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker issued an executive order that "suspends sections in the Illinois Code of Civil Procedure that permit the service of a garnishment summons, wage deduction summons, or a citation to discover assets on a consumer debtor or consumer garnishee. It shall not be construed to apply to domestic support obligations or relieving a debtor of any liability." The order was extended through Oct. 17, 2020, along with several other COVID-19 regulations in place.

Illinois is currently in phase four of its reopening process.

The state's stay at home order and non-essential business operations executive order was previously modified to allow for some limited businesses to begin opening while being extended through May 30, 2020.

ACA International has confirmed that the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation – Division of Financial Institutions guidance for licensed entities in applies to all licensed agencies, not just those located within state.

Companies with individual agents working remotely under Gov. Pritzker’s executive order and guidance from the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) are now required to notify the state. If an individual agent is working remotely and the brick and mortar location is not changing, the collection agency should send an email with the employee name and location to [email protected]. The subject line should list "Collection Agency – Remote Work COVID." The collection agency will need to email the agency name and 017 license number followed by the list of collectors and their addresses where they are working remotely.

While non-essential business and operation must cease, businesses may continue operations consisting exclusively of employees or contractors working from home. Agencies should be mindful of the challenges that telecommuting may impose under other state and federal laws, e.g., the FDCPA (for all third-party collectors), HIPAA (for medical debt collectors.) The Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission (ARDC) of the Supreme Court of Illinois also issued COVID-19 guidance for legal services agencies that the accounts receivable management industry may also find helpful.

The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation – Division of Financial Institutions announced new guidance to its regulated entities, including student loan servicers and collection agencies, encouraging debt collectors and debt buyers to work with consumers to accommodate hardships due to the COVID-19 crisis, including to suspend collection activity for a period of at least 60 days, according to a news release.

Additional guidance to licensed entities states although licensed collection agencies and debt buyers operating in Illinois are not listed as essential businesses under Gov. Pritzker’s executive stay-at-home order, non-essential businesses are allowed to continue operations consisting exclusively of employees or contractors performing activities at their own residences.

Thus, debt collection agencies seeking to work at a location other than their address of record, including remotely, are hereby directed to provide the department notice within 14 days of any address changes.

Student loan servicers licensed in Illinois are encouraged by the Division of Financial Institutions to "make prudent efforts to meet the financial needs of all student loan borrowers affected directly or indirectly by the COVID-19 pandemic" following passage of H.R. 748 (the CARES Act), which codifies additional relief for federal student loan borrowers who have loans held by the U.S. Department of Education.

Indiana Governor Executive Order

Update: The Indiana Supreme Court issued an order extending a hold on garnishing funds attributable to Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act stimulus payments to Jan. 1, 2021.

Gov. Eric J. Holcomb issued an updated Posted in NewsTagged , , ,

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