The Atlantic Cities offered up the depressingly titled “The Depressing Geography of Debt Collection,” which features National Consumer Law Center maps from its “No Fresh Start report,” which shows “how states let debt collectors push families into poverty.”
The NCLC has divided the issue into five key categories: protection of wages, the family car, the family home, the family bank account and household goods. Naturally, Pennsylvania does not fare well, not only getting an F grade in four of the five categories, but being included in the list of Worst States:
Worst States: At the opposite end of the scale are several states whose exemption laws reflect indifference to struggling debtors. These states allow debt collectors to seize nearly everything a debtor owns, even the minimal items necessary for the debtor to continue working and providing for a family.
Why is this? Blame it on PA’s backwardness.
In some states, the inadequacy of the state exemption laws simply reflects a failure to update them…in a number of states, exemption laws reflect the horse-and-buggy era.
For example, Pennsylvania protects clothing, Bibles, school books, sewing machines that are not held for resale, military uniforms and accoutrements, and a whopping $300 of other property. There is no protection for household goods beyond $300. Creditors can clean out a debtor’s home, taking virtually everything. Nor is there any protection for the debtor’s home, car, or work tools. This indifference to debtors and their families is balanced out to some extent by Pennsylvania’s refusal to allow creditors to seize any portion of a debtor’s wages, but even that protection has been watered down by exceptions in recent years.