Coronavirus News: Relatives of COVID-19 patients fall into deferment debacle

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Friday, May 1, 2020
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Nina Pineda helps the daughters of a once critically ill COVID patient with expenses racked up while their mother was in intensive care

TOMS RIVER, New Jersey (WABC) -- Deferring everything from mortgage payments to credit card bills has become a financial way of life in this COVID-19 world, but what about the bills piling up for the tens of thousands of people hospitalized fighting this virus? Their finances often fall to their family, and getting those deferments for COVID patients can be a study in frustration.

New Jersey resident Mary Toscano is battling COVID-19 and has been hospitalized for 26 days -- 9 days hooked up to a ventilator.

"My mom is our miracle," daughter Christine Toscano said. "My mom is the strongest woman that we know, and all throughout this whole journey, everyone who knows her said, 'Your mom is going to be just fine.'"

Christine Toscano said the Toms River family thought they had lost her.

As she fought for her life, Christine Toscano and her daughter-in-law Toni tried to take care of the bills piling up with mom's mail, but getting the debts deferred turned into a battle.

"They made it extremely hard," Toni Toscano said. "They were rude and just felt like they didn't care."

They say reps for store credit cards - TJ Maxx and Boscov's - each stated only Mary Toscano could request a deferment.

"I said she's been in the hospital for a month," Toni Toscano said. "She's been on a ventilator. She can't talk, walk, move."

She said the reps say they were sorry and following protocol.

"You shouldn't have to fight for her and defend your loved ones for what they're going through," Christine Toscano said.

She thought since she has Power of Attorney, a legal document giving you power to make financial decisions, over her mom's affairs she'd have better luck.

"They wanted my income, my driver's license number," Christine Toscano said. "And I'm like, 'Why would you want all that info? I'm just trying to get my mom's bill deferred.'"

Toni Toscano was furious and couldn't believe it.

"She said, 'I'm calling 7 On Your Side,'" Christine Toscano said. "She was so upset."

7 On Your Side contacted both retailers, Boscov's and TJX, which owns TJ Maxx, Marshalls, HomeGoods, HomeSense and Sierra. Both companies apologized, granting three month deferments,

No late fees, no interest charges and no dings to mom's credit score.

And more good news, mom recovered and moved to rehab where her family visits daily sending love through the window.

"If you're not getting what you want or need, call 7 On Your Side," Christine Toscano said.

7 On Your Side also got a deferment for mom's car payment after Christine Toscano said the finance company lost her POA. In all it - deferred thousands - until she's back home.

The big takeaway is if you're helping a sick loved one, you won't get to first base without a signed Power Of Attorney.

And when you're dealing with these companies, be firm, persistent and put your request in writing. Documentation is always better than conversation.


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