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Unemployment benefits returned to Clearwater family after garnishment by creditor; Legal case dropped

Better Call Behnken

Every penny was returned

CLEARWATER, Fla. (WFLA) – Adam and Kayte Bush are celebrating, after a creditor moved to drop the case that turned their world upside down this week.

The last couple hundred dollars they had was drained from their bank account, and they were old every penny coming to them in unemployment benefits would go to the creditor until around $1,100 in old debt, including court costs and fees, was paid off.

After a Better Call Behnken investigation, attorneys collecting on the old Amazon credit card debt had a change of heart.

“Two days ago, I thought we were done,” Kayte Bush said. “I thought we were ruined. And you know, a friend and a really wise woman has told me repeatedly, ‘Every storm runs out of rain.’ And yesterday, I thought we were going to drawn. Because of you, we’re not.”

Here’s how this happened:

Kayte, a former dental hygienist, ended up hospitalized and still suffering from the lingering affects of the disease. Her unemployment benefits are helping the family keep food on the table.

But this week, the family was in for a terrible surprise. They went to the pharmacy to get medicine for one of their children and their debit card bounced, then discovered it was because their accounts had been frozen and emptied through a court-ordered garnishment over a debt they thought was on hold as part of a pandemic relief effort.

They turned to Better Call Behnken for help after they say their bank had few answers.

It turns out that this traces back to an old Amazon credit card that Adam defaulted on years ago. In 2018, records how, he came to an agreement in court with the creditor to make payments of $22 a month. He did, and when the pandemic hit and Kayte lost her job, they say they checked with debt collection company to see if their payments could be put on hold.

The couple say their request was granted and they called back several times to confirm. But court records show something else was happening. The debt collection firm went back to court in June and said Adam defaulted, and that triggered the writ of garnishment to be granted.

The writ was for $974.86 with court costs. The Bushes say they were told this week by the collection company that they would have to settle the debt for around $1,100. Until they could do that, their bank account would remain frozen and Kayte’s unemployment benefits would go toward the debt.

“This is a crisis situation” she said. “This is really bad. I don’t know what I’m going to do.”

Investigator Shannon Behnken consulted with attorneys Sara Jones and Jeff Canup, financial stability attorneys at Gulfcoast Legal Services. Jones and Canup had questions about how this occured, particularly since Florida law exempts unemployment benefits from garnishment.

In this case, the only money in the account was unemployment money, and the debt wasn’t even in Kayte’s name.

On top of that, the couple thought their arrangement to pause the $22 monthly payment was halted.

Sara Jones is one of the attorneys for Gulfcoast Legal Services who stepped up to help, after Investigator Shannon Behnken called the organization for guidance.

“To be honest with you, this case should have never gotten to that point,” Jones said.

“It just struck a cord with me,” she added. “And I wanted to reach out and try and help them, and I’m very thankful, still, to be able to have this opportunity.”

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