LANCASTER COUNTY, Pa. (WHTM) — The verdict is in and relief is on the way. Lancaster County is leading the charge on a new credit card diversion program to help with the mounting pile of debt cases ending up in court.

“In 2020, about 40 percent of civil cases were credit card or consumer debt collection actions,” Catherine Hecker, program coordinator and staff attorney at the Lancaster County Court of Common Pleas said.

This number is only expected to snowball with many families struggling to pay their bills during the pandemic.

Hecker says a lot of these cases end up in judgments that hurt families–because many companies sue, hoping the debtor doesn’t respond, and they’ll win by default.

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“A judgment is something that is a matter of public record and can be attached as a lien to their real property, garnishment of their bank accounts. None of that helps someone who is financially struggling,” Hecker said. 

In Lancaster County alone, around 1,000 credit card debt cases have been filed just this year. They’re hoping this will not only help people get back on their feet but also help reduce the burden on the court. This means getting both parties to negotiate the debt.

“This is a way that we can do it that isn’t so draconian. We can have people set up a payment plan, can meet with them and find the true amount of the debt is and find a workaround that allows people to still pay rent and still pay their bills,” Hecker added.

The program is set to begin on Jan. 1 and the court will work in tandem with Tenfold and their credit counselors to get people back on healthier financial footing.