The COVID-19 pandemic forced the world to re-think systems that have been in place for decades, quickly adapting—at least temporarily— to the new normal. Among those systems was the credit reporting system. In response to the pandemic, Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act; an act that, among other things, amends the Fair Credit Reporting Act in regard to how credit reporting agencies should respond to delinquencies resulting from the pandemic.
This Note argues that to adapt to the increasing occurrence of natural disasters, the U.S. government must implement a system in which a consumer can easily alert their creditors when they become a victim of a natural disaster. This Note begins by considering the credit reporting and scoring system currently in place. It then touches on the current system’s strengths and shortcomings and introduces the Fair Credit Reporting Act—Congress’s response to the key credit reporting issues facing consumers. Part II discusses the system’s failures in the face of natural disasters, specifically how the system hinders rather than helps victims. The system, as it stands, does not differentiate between consumers who are less creditworthy because they made poor financial decisions and consumers who have been devastated by a natural disaster and have exhausted their resources as a result. Finally, this Note will offer three concrete suggestions for how to improve the system to accommodate those whose credit score was affected by a natural disaster rather than poor decision-making: (1) a requirement that an AW code be applied to a consumer’s credit report if the consumer is a victim of a natural disaster and requests it; this request should trigger a responsibility to furnishers and credit reporters that the code should be reflected in all of the consumer’s reports; (2) a requirement that the AW code remain on a credit report for a prescribed amount of time; and (3) a requirement for credit reporting agencies and furnishers to educate themselves on the AW code and their responsibilities towards consumers who request such a code. These small but significant changes will enable disaster survivors to protect their credit and allow them an opportunity to rebuild their lives without debilitating roadblocks.
Katherine Wecker, Providing Relief After a Natural Disaster Through Credit Reports, 44 SEATTLE U. L. REV. 891 (2021).
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