Ohio policy group encourages options for consumer debt settlements

(The Center Square) – While Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and state leaders prepare to announce more assistance by the end of this week, a Central Ohio policy think tank says a bill in the General Assembly could provide more significant long-term help for Ohioans.

DeWine said earlier this week he expects to announce help for renters, homeowners, nonprofits and businesses by the end of the week. Those programs work well to keep Ohioans going as they continue to work through the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Greg Lawson, research fellow at The Buckeye Institute.

“While a variety of government programs have helped keep Ohioans afloat, many of them – temporary unemployment compensation, rental assistance and loan forbearance – have ended or will end soon,” Lawson said. “The result? Ohioans already struggling with debt will sink deeper into a sea of red ink as the bills keep coming and the penalties keep piling up.”

Lawson says giving consumers options and updating the state’s debt adjusting law could make an important difference that would give Ohioans the ability to negotiate debt settlements.

In 2004, according to Lawson, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled the work of debt settlement companies an illegal act, leaving consumers with few options. However, the court recently clarified its ruling.

A bill in the Ohio Senate, though, allows debt settlement companies to do their work, as long as they are in compliance with the federal law regulating their work.

“This clarification – along with the court’s decision – will give Ohioans struggling with debt more options, which should be a priority for Ohio lawmakers,” Lawson said. “Using a debt settlement company might not be the right choice for everyone. But just as many Ohioans are trying to put food on the table, policymakers should put more options on the table for people who need debt relief.”