Officials in Maury County, Tenn. will begin working with collection agency Pioneer Credit Recovery to recover an estimated $10 million in debts owed to the county.

Maury County previously used Solutia, a collection agency that went out of business “unexpectedly” in August 2014, according to Maury County Circuit Court Clerk Sandy McLain. The county has struggled to collect delinquencies since that time, she told The Daily Herald in Columbia, Tenn.

Uncollected clerk fees and county litigation taxes totaled $5.6 million from July 1, 2005 through the end of June. The clerk’s office collected $827,323 last fiscal year and $967,170 in 2015.

Pioneer Credit, owend by Navient, charges a fee along with what the county is owed and using the firm does not cost the county money, McLain said. The debt has to be in default for six months before the agency can be pursue it. A date for Pioneer Credit to begin the work has not been officially determined but is expected to begin before October.

A new Tennessee law recently took effect that allows counties to suspend a driver’s license for anyone who did not pay court costs within one year but McLain said her office has not had the manpower to pursue the option as an effective strategy.

County Clerk and Master Larry Roe said his office is owed $4.9 million from the last decade. In civil cases from the most recent fiscal year, nearly $2 million was assessed and approximately $1.7 million was collected, he added. The clerk and master’s office handles delinquent property tax cases.

In March, a lawsuit filed by four student loan debt collection companies - Pioneer Credit, Coast Professional, National Recoveries and Enterprise Recovery Systems - was dismissed by a federal judge. The collection agencies had argued the U.S. Department of Education arbitrarily cut ties with them in February and asked a judge to order, among other things, that the department stop providing new student accounts to competitors that had their contracts extended.

The Education Department had terminated contracts with the agencies after a review of 22 private collection agency contracts. The fifth agency involved, West Asset Management, did not take part in the lawsuit.  The department’s review found that some collectors made inaccurate representations to borrowers about a loan rehabilitation program, an option that can create benefits to defaulted borrowers after they have made nine on-time payments in a period of 10 months.  

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