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Coronavirus can't stop Cleveland debt collectors, lawmakers might

Posted at 3:59 PM, Mar 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-25 15:59:56-04

CLEVELAND — A prominent Cleveland area law firm specializing in debt collection continues to remain open during the coronavirus outbreak as thousands of other businesses across the state remain closed under a state health department order.

Weltman, Weinberg & Reis, based in Brooklyn Heights, is an 89-year-old firm whose clients include banks and other lenders.

The firm is a "collection agency operating within a creditor's rights law firm" according to a company history found on its website and operates under the "highest legal, ethical and moral standards."

The Ohio Department of Health "Stay at Home Order" specifically permits Weltman and scores of professional services such as legal and accounting service to remain open for business.

In what the company called a "Covid-19 Service Continuity Update" posted on March 20, Managing Partner Scott. S. Weltman wrote: "At this time, Weltman has not had any impact on our work due to the outbreak," adding that it was "committed to our clients and employees and will do our part to reduce the spread of coronavirus".

For consumers with debt ranging from auto loans, credit cards, utilities and health care, it means the business of debt collection will continue even as many consumers are facing an unsure and frightening financial future.

But late Wednesday, State Rep. Thomas West, a democrat from Canton, introduced a bill to halt all debt collections until Ohio's state of emergency declaration ends.

The legislation would also prohibit the following practices: harassing phone calls, disconnecting electricity and other utilities, charging higher interest penalties or fees, and lawsuits to collect debts, evictions, garnishments and other efforts to collect debt.

In a statement Rep. West wrote, “During this unprecedented crisis, Ohio families and small businesses should not have to worry about the looming threat of debts and associated fees that they simply cannot afford to pay at this time."

“We must give hardworking Ohioans a chance to recover and rebuild from the devastating effects of this outbreak," Rep. West said.

A survey by the U.S. Federal Reserve found an average credit card debt in Ohio to be approximately $5,446 while it also reports U.S. household debt exceeds $14 trillion as Americans increased borrowing.

When contacted Wednesday, a representative at Weltman advised only to leave a voice mail and our call would be returned.