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Tuesday, Sep 25, 2018
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Bank settlement means millions for Florida non-profits

TAMPA — A big payout from a credit card debt collection settlement with Chase Bank will mean millions of dollars for Florida non-profit agencies.

Florida was awarded $16.9 million from the settlement, the largest chunk out of the $136 million awarded to a total of 47 states, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi said in a press conference Tuesday at Stetson University College of Law of Tampa.

“We were hit the hardest, so we’re very pleased,” Bondi said.

State attorneys general and the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau worked on the settlement, which also provides about 5,000 Chase customers in Florida with direct payouts totaling more than $4.6 million. The money is restitution for excess fees, bills and collections payments they shouldn’t have had to pay. The bank sent many customers into litigation and the collection process without letting them know, and added excessive amounts of interest onto debts, Bondi said.

The consumer protection settlement also requires Chase to improve its credit card debt collection safeguards for Chase customers and limits Chase’s resale of future debt, Bondi said.

About $1.6 million of the state’s payout will go to Florida’s general revenue fund; the remaining $15.3 million will go to charities that offer financial literacy and debt management services, as well as legal help to those who can’t afford it, Bondi said.

The Crisis Center of Tampa Bay and the Florida Association of Community Action will help distribute funds to 27 other charities that offer similar emergency services, including suicide prevention.

“We receive 100,000 calls through our call center every year, many of those calls about financial problems,” said Sandy McLaughlin, vice president of development for the Crisis Center. “This allows us to reach more people, many of which are single moms working two jobs.”

Urban Leagues throughout Florida, the Down Syndrome Association of Central Florida, Junior Achievement youth organization, a consumer fraud education program for seniors housed at Stetson Law and the Florida Bar Association are among the other charities that will use the funds for financial literacy courses and legal aid.

Money also will be dedicated to help veterans transition back to civilian life after military duty through financial literacy courses and help finding housing and jobs.

“This will help veterans from being evicted from their homes or their lights being turned off, will help veterans from going homeless by providing apartments for them, and will help with medical needs and claims,” said Col. Washington Sanchez, chairman of the Florida Veterans Foundation.

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