North Carolina Department of Justice
North Carolina Department of Justice
North Carolina Department of Justice
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Reply to: Belinda A. Smith Health & Public Asst. Section Tele: (919) 716-6840 Facsimile: (919) 716-6758

February 8, 1999

Bryan E. Beatty, Inspector General North Carolina Department of Justice

P. O. Box 629 Raleigh, N.C. 27602

Re: Advisory Opinion: Authority of County DSS to Notify Credit Bureaus of Debts Owed to DSS; G. S. § 108A-80

Dear Mr. Beatty:

This letter is in response to your request for an advisory opinion on the issue raised by the Beaufort County Department of Social Services. The County asked whether State or federal law permits the DSS to report to credit bureaus any debts it is owed by virtue of public assistance overpayments.

N. C. Gen. Stat. § 108A-80 prohibits disclosure of names or other information concerning applicants or recipients of public assistance except for purposes directly connected to the administration of the programs of public assistance. Collection of debts is a purpose directly connected to the administration of the programs of public assistance. If the DSS has an unpaid judgment or settlement agreement, a report to a credit bureau may be a reasonable and logical method of attempting to recover the funds. We would caution that, in most cases, it would not be advisable to report debts until the debt has been reduced to judgment or settlement and recovery on the judgment or settlement has been attempted. We would also advise that the report should not be made if the sole purpose of making the report is to punish the debtor.

We trust this fully answers your questions. Please do not hesitate to contact us if we can be of further assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

Ann Reed Senior Deputy Attorney General

Belinda A. Smith Assistant Attorney General