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coronavirus New York

Attorney General James and Governor Cuomo suspend debt collection

New York Attorney General Letitia James and New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced March 17 that — effective immediately — the state will temporarily halt the collection of medical and student debt owed to the State of New York and referred to the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) for collection, for at least a 30-day period, in response to growing financial impairments resulting from the spread of 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Countless New Yorkers have been impacted — directly or indirectly — by the spread of COVID-19, forcing them to forgo income and business. In an effort to support these workers and families and ease their financial burdens, the OAG will halt the collection of medical and student debt owed to the State of New York and referred to the OAG for collection from March 17, 2020 through April 16, 2020. After this 30-day period, the OAG will reassess the needs of state residents for a possible extension. Additionally, the OAG will accept applications for suspension of all other types of debt owed to the State of New York and referred to the OAG for collection.  

“In this time of crisis, my office will not add undue stress or saddle New Yorkers with unnecessary financial burden,” said Attorney General James. “This is the time when New Yorkers need to rally around each other and pick each other up, which is why I am committed to doing everything in my power to support our state’s residents.” 

“As the financial impact of this emerging crisis grows, we are doing everything we can to support the thousands of New Yorkers who are suffering as a result of the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Governor Cuomo.

Separately, in an effort to support New Yorkers in the fight against the coronavirus, Attorney General James has sent multiple cease and desist letters to individuals and companies selling and marketing certain products as treatments or cures for the coronavirus, including Alex Jones, The Silver Edge company, Dr. Sherill Sellman, and televangelist Jim Bakker. 

There is currently no Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved vaccine to prevent the disease or treatment to cure it, and the World Health Organization has also said that there is no specific medicine to prevent or treat the coronavirus. 

Additionally, Attorney General James has issued cease and desist notifications to multiple businesses in New York for charging excessive prices for hand sanitizers, disinfectant sprays, and rubbing alcohol — a violation of New York’s price gouging statute. That statute prohibits the sale of goods and services necessary for the health, safety, and welfare of consumers at unconscionably excessive prices during any abnormal disruption of the market. 

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