Ensure Victims of Financial Abuse and Coerced Debt have Access to Identity Theft Protections (2021 Legislative Priority)
Domestic violence and financial abuse have been on the rise during the pandemic, with some areas of the state reporting a 50% increase in outreach to programs that offer assistance to people experiencing domestic violence. Financial abuse, often in the form of coerced debt—debts incurred in the victim’s name by the abuser—is a common part of domestic abuse, and one that stays with the victim long after leaving an abusive relationship. In 2019, 30% of Texas calls to the national domestic violence hotline included experiencing financial abuse.
Last legislative session, Texas took important steps to update the definition of identity theft in criminal statutes to include coerced debts. Small additional changes are needed to ensure consistency across statutes, so that survivors of domestic violence have full access to legal tools to rebuild their financial lives.
Fair Financial Services & the 87th Legislative Session
Texas Appleseed has four 2021 legislative policy initiatives as part of our Fair Financial Services Project; they include advocacy surrounding Debt Collection, Coerced Debt, Payday & Auto Title Lending, and Auto Insurance Pricing. All priorities can be found on our legislative page. These priorities focus on policies that enhance the ability of Texas families to recover and rebuild from the economic harms of the pandemic. The U.S. Census and other survey data show that 40 to 50% of Texans continue to experience increased economic hardship due to the pandemic.
Before the pandemic hit, when unemployment was low, Texans were already experiencing record indebtedness, record debt collection lawsuit filings, and high fees and auto repossessions related to payday and auto title loans. The pandemic has deepened the financial harms that Texans are experiencing from these trends in our economy. Black and Latino Texans are particularly struggling under the weight of these dynamics that undermine financial wellbeing.
Building on our ongoing systemic reform efforts, these priorities will make a meaningful financial difference for Texans harmed by the pandemic, and will help Texans families to rebuild in its wake.