Why Bankruptcy Cases Decreased during COVID-19 Shutdowns, and What the Future Will Bring

As we continue to move through this uncertain time, more economic concerns may rise, including the increase in business and individual bankruptcy cases. If you are struggling to meet debt payments during the COVID-19 pandemic, you are not alone. Millions of Americans are finding their finances shaken up in an unwelcome way, and many will find relief in bankruptcy. While filing for bankruptcy is often viewed as a drastic action, the process is a truly effective one that provides debt relief for many more people and businesses than you might think. At Behm Law Group Ltd., we offer clients expert guidance, advice, and legal protection while they find their financial footing as an individual or business by filing for bankruptcy in Owatonna, MN.

 

The initial coronavirus crisis and ensuing shutdowns caused many events to occur, including a steep decrease in the number of bankruptcies filed from March to June. This plunge in cases was directly caused by the lockdown and stay-at-home orders, in addition to some other factors.

 

Why the decrease happened:

  1. Courts were closed during the state-wide shutdowns. This caused the cases already in motion to be halted, and other individuals who might have filed soon were forced to hit the pause button.
  2. The CARES Act included financial boosts for almost every individual with the issuance of stimulus checks and the federal benefit of $600 per week for each individual for unemployment. This aid was added to many people’s bank accounts and it enabled them to pay their creditors during the shutdowns.
  3. The government alleviated many debt obligations through a moratorium on evictions, foreclosures, and other aspects of loans, which included all federal loans and many private loans through banks and other lenders.
  4. Finally, many creditors offered grace periods on loans, giving debtors more time to pay, waiving late fees, and offering forbearance programs. Both the government alleviation and the provision of adjusted debt requirements allowed those struggling financially to better address more pressing needs with their tight budgets.

 

All of the factors that contributed to the decrease of bankruptcy cases are now over. The stimulus checks have been spent, the unemployment benefits will be ending at the end of July, and many other aspects of the CARES Act have run their course. Now, with the debt payment requirements and the consequences for not making payments back to normal, the same financial issues that people faced before the coronavirus pandemic started are becoming problems again. This, in combination with the beginnings of a severe economic recession, show signs that bankruptcies will increase dramatically in the next year.

 

For those facing the newest financial burdens on top of the ones they were already facing before the COVID-19 pandemic started, filing for bankruptcy might be the right choice. To learn more about filing for bankruptcy in Owatonna, MN, and the surrounding area, contact Behm Law Group Ltd. at (507) 387-7200 or stephen@mankatobankruptcy.com.

How Bankruptcy Offered Debt Relief to Many During the 2008 Financial Crisis

 

During this unsure economic time, many of us look to the past to see how we reacted, what worked, and what didn’t. Since the first Great Depression in the U.S., there have been many ups and downs in the economy. One notable “down” was the 2008 financial crisis. The unexpected depression during that time was a recent crisis that took place in an economy very similar to the one today.

 

While there are many components to any depression, the 2008 crisis is one we can most likely prevent from occurring again. However, if any financial crises happen in our future, individuals and businesses alike can find solid ground and protection from the relief a bankruptcy case provides. If you’re struggling to make ends meet during these challenging times, Behm Law Group, Ltd. can help you find debt relief in Marshall, MN and the surrounding area through the process of filing for bankruptcy relief.

 

The financial crisis of 2008 saw many bankruptcies, including Lehman Brothers, who filed the largest case of all time. Individuals, small businesses, and Fortune 500 companies were all affected financially during this time. A combination of risky investments, the collapse of the housing market, and various other bad choices made by large players in Wall Street led to a severe financial crisis and a trickle-down effect that made everyone change the way they looked at our economy.

 

In addition to many of the large bankruptcy cases like Lehman Brothers, thousands of people across the U.S. found themselves filing bankruptcy to protect their homes and find debt relief. For individuals then (and now) there were two main options.

 

If their income was lower than the state median income, an individual could file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and have their non-exempt assets sold in exchange for the discharge of debts. In a Chapter 7 case there are exemptions filers can use to protect the vast majority of their assets (in most cases people are able to protect all of their assets) from liquidation, depending on their financial circumstances. In 2007 there were 467,248 non-business Chapter 7 cases. After the crisis in 2008, that number jumped to 949,002 in 2009 and 1,105,534 in 2010.

 

A debtor’s other option was to file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy. This was an option for those with an income higher than the state median income who were ineligible for Chapter 7. Chapter 13 worked to restructure debts into a manageable repayment plan lasting three to five years. In 2007, there were 307,521 non-business Chapter 13 cases. In 2009, that number increased to 393,786, and in 2010, rose again to 430,583.

 

All of the bankruptcy cases born out of the 2008 crisis were effective in many ways, helping to rebalance our economy and provide much needed debt relief to filers. To learn more about filing for debt relief in Marshall, MN during today’s difficult financial times, contact Behm Law Group, Ltd. at (507) 387-7200 or stephen@mankatobankruptcy.com.

Part One: The Beginnings of Bankruptcy Code from the Renaissance to the American Shift

If you have filed for bankruptcy before in Mankato, MN, or are working through a case now with the help of Behm Law Group Ltd., you know there are many intricacies of the bankruptcy code. Bankruptcy laws weren’t always so complex nor with fairness to all parties involved. Since the first semblances of the bankruptcy code starting in 1542, a lot about bankruptcy has changed.

 

1542:  After centuries of brutality against debtors, the first bankruptcy code was enacted in 1542 in the form of the Statute of Bankrupts. Put into place under the reign of King Henry VIII, the statute was an act of parliament and the first law to deal with bankruptcy. Broadly speaking, the act stated that debtors committing fraud (i.e. not making payments) should have all their assets seized and sold. The value of that sale would then be returned to creditors in amounts proportionate to the debts owed to them. While this form of bankruptcy law was less than fair to debtors, it was the first time something remotely resembling our bankruptcy code today was established.

 

1570: In 1570, Queen Elizabeth established the first modification to the still-young bankruptcy laws of England. The second of the English Bankruptcy Acts broadened and specified many of the offenses debtors could commit and the punishments therefore. Despite changes and clarifications, this act was still largely unfair to debtors.

 

1705: Under Queen Anne’s reign in 1705, the first signs of ease to debtors were established. In Queen Anne’s bankruptcy act, debtors had options for discharge and debt relief without the drastic consequences of the past. This departure was considered radical, but since then, every English bankruptcy law included some form of debtor relief provision.

 

1776: In this auspicious year, the United States of America declared independence from British rule, and the shift in bankruptcy law to what it is today began. To emphasize distance from English law, much of American legislation written in the early years of the United States was based on critical examination of what was wrong with how the parliament and monarchy operated. The lack of favor for the people in the English legislature was exactly the opposite of what the United States was founded on, and to shift away from that, every law was carefully outlined, including the bankruptcy code and the treatment of debtors. At this point, Congress had power to enact general bankruptcy legislation, but the standard for bankruptcy was to have each state establish the insolvency laws it saw fit.

 

The American shift away from English bankruptcy law was a significant and critical aspect of what our current bankruptcy code is based on. The fine-tuning and improvement on the American shift will be covered in the second part of this blog post. If you are seeking advice on how to file and navigate the bankruptcy code in Mankato, MN, or the surrounding area today, contact Behm Law Group Ltd. at (507) 387-7200 or stephen@mankatobankruptcy.com.

The Strange (and Unnerving) History of Bankruptcy

If you’re struggling with financial hardship, you are not alone. Today, over 38 million people in America live at or below the poverty line. While finances should never be paired with human decency, unfortunately for hundreds of years, they have gone hand in hand with social comment. In years past, millions of people living in poverty with debts to pay were treated much differently, and more severely, than they are today. If you are in need of financial relief and are filing for bankruptcy in Windom, MN, you are making a positive choice for your household that is trending away from any social stigma. Indeed, Behm Law Group Ltd. can help you work through your bankruptcy case and receive long-term debt relief that is much different than history’s strange and often drastic reactions to debt.

 

In the past, holding debt was much more dangerous and unsettling than it is with today’s bankruptcy laws. Years ago, in many parts of the world, if you were a debtor and were unable to repay your lender, you could be subject to some unnerving consequences such as those that follow.

 

Corporal punishment: Throughout the majority of history, debtors were punished with physical harm if they did not or could not pay their lenders. A sentence might have manifested itself as a beating, stockage, mutilation, or other similar negative reprisal. In fact, throughout many societies, corporal punishment in varying degrees of severity was the most common consequence of not repaying your debt.

Death penalty: The most severe punishment for unpaid debts was execution. Infamously, the vast empire of Ghengis and Kublai Khan demanded an execution penalty for unpaid debts that was typically inflicted by trampling a debtor to death under horse foot.

Jail time: Throughout history, being thrown into a dungeon or jailed for some time was another common punishment. While jail conditions of the past were significantly less sanitary and more dangerous than they are today, at the time, imprisonment was considered one of the least severe punishments for debtors.

Slavery: Ancient Greeks and Romans implemented debt slavery laws that forced debtors (and often their family members) into indentured labor positions. Debt slaves could work off what they owed over time, but more frequently than not, they faced a life sentence of hard servitude.

“Compromise”: In societies where debt settlements were directly worked out between the lender and borrower, certain compromises were available. These “compromises,” however, were often less than fair to the debtor and could include sacrificing your wife and daughters as property, offering sons into slavery, or facing public humiliation. One compromise is where bankruptcy, which comes from the Latin bancus ruptus, literally “broken bench,” got its name. In ancient Rome, businesses operated from a simple bench or a stall. If they could not repay their debts, creditors could carry off or destroy/break their bench/storefront.

 

There are many other strange ways we have handled debts in the past, but today, we have a well-established system of government-mandated bankruptcy law. If you are considering filing for bankruptcy in Windom, MN, contact Behm Law Group Ltd. at (507) 387-7200 or stephen@mankatobankruptcy.com today.

Filing with the Help of a Bankruptcy Attorney During Quarantine

After a long spring of dark news and constant worry as we shelter in place, the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic is beginning to show signs of lifting. However, while states are relaxing aspects of the coronavirus lock down, many of us are still coping with work, communication, and other parts of our lives remotely.

 

Minnesota district courts implemented a preparedness plan outlining how they will navigate in the face of COVID-19, but civil cases like bankruptcy are still being conducted largely through remote contact. If you’re struggling with debt and considering filing a bankruptcy case during this unsure time, you can benefit greatly from the advice and guidance of an expert bankruptcy attorney in Pipestone, MN and the surrounding area. Behm Law Group, Ltd. attorneys offer the skill, knowledge, and experience you need to navigate a case in times like this when bankruptcy rules are changing rapidly to address the circumstances of the coronavirus outbreak.

 

Fortunately for all parties involved, bankruptcy is a legal process that can, in part, be done remotely. With phone, video conferencing, email, and other remote contact resources, you can work through the preparation process with relative efficiency. On the other hand, understanding the new rules when it comes to those remote processes can be difficult, and accessibility to continually updated information is less than ideal. Currently, the basic conditions of filing under quarantine include remote scheduling of the following:

 

  • Meetings with your bankruptcy attorney: These can be scheduled over the phone or through video conferencing. Attorneys can provide online drop boxes for forms and all signatures. Your lawyer has the ability to conduct the 341 meeting of creditors with the trustee remotely.
  • Meeting of creditors: The meeting of the creditors (or 341 meeting) is one of your bankruptcy requirements. All creditors may attend, as well as the trustee, the bankruptcy filer, and the bankruptcy filer’s attorney. Currently, these meetings are scheduled through video conferencing or telephonically.
  • Credit counseling: One other bankruptcy requirement that can be conducted in person is credit counseling. All filers must complete a credit counseling course through a court-approved agency within 180 days prior to filing their bankruptcy petition. These counseling sessions are now being scheduled remotely through various means.
  • Document exchange: Finally, all document exchanges between the filer, court, trustee, creditors, and bankruptcy attorney can be done digitally. This includes the suspension of wet (in person) signature requirements. In addition to electronic document exchanges, attorneys are providing digital packets that unpack the nuanced and complicated rules of current filing conditions for bankruptcy.

 

Overall, courts and attorneys have reacted quickly to state shutdowns and other coronavirus conditions, putting remote options into place and changing rules as things progress. To start your filing process remotely, contact Behm Law Group, Ltd. today at (507) 387-7200 or stephen@mankatobankruptcy.com for a trusted, experienced bankruptcy attorney in Pipestone, MN.

 

What Current Big Businesses Bankruptcies Mean for Individuals Already Seeking Debt Relief

The continued COVID-19 crisis is still showing the impact it’s having on the global economy. More and more large companies, local businesses, and nonprofit organizations will struggle to make ends meet, and those that cannot may find debt relief in bankruptcy. With the cases of Neiman Marcus and J.Crew, we’re seeing the first of many large business bankruptcies that are an almost direct result of the coronavirus pandemic and shelter-in-place orders.

 

There are many signals that big business bankruptcies send to individual consumers, including the fact that we’re entering a recession. An economic recession often includes increases in individual debts. If you’re struggling with worsening financial circumstances, Behm Law Group, Ltd. can help you join others who are finding debt relief in Mankato, MN through bankruptcy.

 

While big business bankruptcies might not affect you directly, they’re a signal of a changing economy. This often means that you may be impacted in other ways. If you haven’t already seen harder financial times due to the pandemic and national crisis shut down, these big business bankruptcies might be a sign of worse times to come:

 

  • Art Van Furniture filed for reorganization bankruptcy on March 8th. In April, that reorganization was converted to a liquidation case which will require the closure of Art Van as a whole.
  • Bar Louie shuttered almost half of its locations in January after struggling with early COVID-19 shutdowns.
  • CMX Cinemas filed to reorganize its debts on April 25th, shutting down all 41 locations in the meantime.
  • Frontier Communications filed a $10 billion debt reorganization plan on April 14th. It’s one of the largest telecom companies in America.
  • J.Crew filed on May 4th for a reorganization plan of $1.7 billion in debt. 181 J.Crew stores, 140 J.Crew-owned Madewell brand stores, and 170 factory stores are currently closed but will open after COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.
  • Pier 1 filed reorganization bankruptcy on February 17th with almost 1,000 stores. The company’s stock has declined steadily since 2013.
  • Rubie’s Costume Company is the largest costume supplier in the world. The company filed for bankruptcy on April 30th.

 

Other large oil companies and retailers have also begun the process to file for reorganization or liquidation bankruptcy. The big takeaway from these large business bankruptcies for individual consumers is a wide view of how the economy is changing as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

 

Individuals with growing debts should know that they’re not alone. If you’re considering filing bankruptcy for debt relief in Mankato, MN, contact Behm Law Group, Ltd. today at (507) 387-7200 or stephen@mankatobankruptcy.com.

Increased Rates of Small Business Bankruptcy in Coming Months

The effects of the coronavirus pandemic on the global economy have been rapidly and frighteningly apparent. With stay-at-home orders and nonessential operation shutdowns now in place, many businesses have experienced layoffs, requested extensions on payments, and filed for government aid. Despite the large-scale federal stimulus package distributed after the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act, hundreds of businesses of all shapes and sizes are still struggling. In the coming months, many companies will find themselves in dire financial conditions with no sign of improvement through an economic upturn. If you own a small business and are struggling even with the help of federal and state stimulus loans, filing for bankruptcy can help. With the advice and protection of Behm Law Group Ltd., you can file for small business bankruptcy in Jackson, MN, and receive relief from past and present debts.

 

Though the impact on the economy will affect everyone, the projection of a sharp increase in small business bankruptcies in the next year will disproportionately change the financial standings for a few industries.

 

Restaurants: The shutdown of nonessential businesses has had a severe impact on the food industry and restaurants in particular. The majority of all restaurants have shut down completely, while a few others are getting by via curbside and delivery services. Family-owned restaurants are having an especially difficult time, and hundreds will file for bankruptcy relief before the pandemic ends.

 

Luxury Stores: Boutiques, gift shops, and other luxury retailers are also having a hard time getting through the recession caused by the pandemic. Consumers dramatically limit spending on luxury goods when budgets get tight. That decrease in spending may last a long time, as past recessions have shown us, and for luxury retail business owners, bankruptcy may be the only way to survive.

 

Independent Oil Operations: Large oil and fossil fuel processors may have a good chance of getting through this time of extreme travel bans, but smaller independent companies may not survive. Oil costs are the lowest they’ve been in the last 10 years and demand continues to decrease. For owners of smaller oil processors, filing for bankruptcy may be the best way to protect themselves and their creditors.

 

Small Airlines: Despite multiple sources of federal support, small airports and airlines may have a hard time getting through the recession caused by the pandemic. With unsaturated airways and restrictions on air travel, most independent or privatized local airline companies have shut down completely. Increases in travel won’t pick up for some time, and it will be an uphill battle to return to pre-pandemic operations.

 

If you own a small business and are struggling to make ends meet during the coronavirus pandemic and its resulting recession, bankruptcy might be the right choice for you. To learn more about filing for bankruptcy in Jackson, MN, contact Behm Law Group Ltd. at (507) 387-7200 or stephen@mankatobankruptcy.com.

Comparing Debt Management Options

Despite many best efforts from national and local governments, banks, and other financial support providers, the global economy is struggling in the current recession caused by COVID-19. If you’re seeing the effects of this recession, you are not alone. Unemployment funds provide some support, but for many, that income doesn’t fill every budget need. Those who are finding it difficult to meet monthly debt payments have several options available to them. With the help of Behm Law Group Ltd., you can learn how bankruptcy and other options of debt management in Mankato, MN, are valuable tools you can use to your advantage during times of financial stress.

 

While filing for bankruptcy may be one of the most legally dramatic options available to you in comparison with many other methods of debt management, it may also be the most effective because it is permanent and binding. Bankruptcy helps thousands of U.S. citizens and businesses recover from moderate to severe debt each year. If you file for bankruptcy, you will either have:

 

  • Your debts discharged in exchange for the liquidation of non-exempt assets, or
  • Your debts reorganized into a three to five-year repayment plan suited to your income and providing more favorable payment terms.

 

Both of these bankruptcy options are effective in their own ways, depending on the situation of the filer. If you aren’t ready to file for bankruptcy, or if it doesn’t make sense for your debts, there are other ways you can manage your debts and find relief. Some common methods include:

 

Loan modifications

Unlike many other ways of working out debts with your lender, loan modifications are a permanent change to debt terms. If you are able to work out a loan modification with your creditor, there will be one or more requirements altered in your payment plan. Your creditor may allow an interest rate reduction or convert a variable rate to a fixed rate. A creditor might also forbear a portion of the principal amount. This means that amount will be set aside before the monthly payment rate is calculated, which lowers the per-payment rate, but does not reduce the loan total.

Non-bankruptcy repayment plans

If you have been unable to make a debt payment for some time, you may be able to work out a repayment plan with your lender for the delinquent amount you owe. This repayment plan will likely spread the amount you owe from past payments evenly over future payments. Typical repayment plans only span three to six months, however.  Lenders very rarely extend payment plans beyond three to six months.

Forbearance agreements

Forbearance agreements are similar to both loan modifications and repayment plans, but they typically occur before you are delinquent on a loan. You can request a reduction or pause on payments for a short time and work out a way to repay the amount you owe from that time.

 

All these options of debt management in Mankato, MN, are short-term. If the recession continues, and you still cannot meet debt payments, bankruptcy is always an available and permanent option. To learn more about bankruptcy, contact Behm Law Group Ltd. at (507) 387-7200 or stephen@mankatobankruptcy.com.

Getting Through a Recession as a Small Business Owner with Debt Relief

There is no denying the impact the COVID-19 outbreak is having on the worldwide economy. As we all reel around a difficult financial time in this recession, many small business owners are asking how they can work through the devastating effects on the economy and come out on the other side as a still functioning operation. Many businesses may have even gone through the 2008 recession and found that there are some tricks to staying solvent. One option that’s always available to sole proprietorships and partnerships is debt relief through Chapter 13 bankruptcy. If you are struggling to meet debt payments in Pipestone, MN, during this time, Behm Law Group Ltd. can help you work through a Chapter 13 reorganization case to receive long-term debt relief that will likely support you to the end of this recession.

Even though we are at the beginning of what will likely be a long recession, it’s not too early to think about your options for debt relief, especially if you already have a difficult time meeting monthly financial requirements. While there are ways to protect your income and business operations during this time—protecting cash flow, limiting purchases, restricting your budget, and formatting marketing plans around the crisis—these actions are sometimes not enough. Many industries will be significantly impacted by the effects of the COVID-19 shutdowns, and amid such long-term desperation, filing for bankruptcy can be a rational, intelligent choice.

Chapter 13 bankruptcy can be filed if you or you and your business partner are personally responsible for business debts. This is often the case with small businesses because the cost of becoming incorporated typically outweighs the protection it provides. When you file for Chapter 13, your business debts and personal debts will be included together in a repayment plan lasting three to five years. This repayment plan will be overseen by a chapter 13 trustee and organized to fit your current financial situation.

If you are personally liable for your business debts, the only way you can keep that business running through a bankruptcy is to file Chapter 13. This process requires you to repay your priority and secured debts under adjusted terms that are more favorable to you.  Also, your unsecured debts will generally not receive any interest and will typically only be paid a percentage of what you owed when your case was filed. While some might consider filing for bankruptcy to be a dramatic decision, the fact is that Chapter 13 bankruptcy helped thousands of small businesses weather the 2008 recession and emerge with their businesses still intact. Thanks to the help of Chapter 13 repayment plans, small businesses can work through this difficult time just as successfully as in the 2008 recession.

You don’t have to be one of the many small businesses that will sadly have to close doors within the next few years due to the financial stress of the coronavirus. Resolve your debts with Behm Law Group Ltd. today. Contact us at (507) 387-7200 or stephen@mankatobankruptcy.com for more information about Chapter 13 debt relief in Pipestone, MN.

Finding Business Debt Relief in the Aftermath of the COVID-19 Outbreak

Bankruptcy is not for everyone and anyone who practices bankruptcy law responsibly and ethically will not try to “sell” someone on the process.  It is appropriately viewed as a last resort.  It is not something to be afraid of but it needs to be approached with a degree of healthy respect.  There is, however, no denying the significant impact the COVID-19 outbreak is having on global, national, and local economies. With the dramatic rise and fall in demand of various goods and services, the temporary closure of many operations, travel bans, trade constriction, and the detriment of the virus itself, the economy may be looking at numbers even worse than the housing crisis of 2008.

Many economic experts projected from the beginning of March that businesses of all shapes and sizes would be impacted by the damages wrought during the COVID-19 outbreak. If you are a local business, you may not be alone if you’re considering filing bankruptcy to find debt relief. With the help of Behm Law Group, Ltd., you can find protection and long-term debt relief in Waseca, MN through Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy.

Whether you file for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 will depend on several things. First, only sole proprietors or partnership companies in which the owners are personally responsible for business debt may file for Chapter 13 reorganization bankruptcy. The process of Chapter 13 bankruptcy restructures business and personal debts together into a manageable repayment plan lasting a three- to five-year period depending on your debt and income. If you qualify for Chapter 13, you can maintain business operations and slowly repay your debts on terms that are more favorable to you.

If you don’t qualify for Chapter 13 or if you can accept that your business may have to be closed down, you have the option to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.  This process will liquidate your non-exempt assets in exchange for the discharge of debts. While you might not be able to keep your business running, you will likely be able to protect and retain things like your home and car and other necessary assets from liquidation.  In chapter 7 bankruptcy, the exemptions allowing you to protect and retain assets are quite generous.  In the vast majority of cases, people are able to keep all of their assets and the only things that they lose are their debts.

A comprehensive outlining of what is happening to the economy throughout the COVID-19 outbreak was done by the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS). This informational article describes the impact COVID-19 has had through the very beginnings of the global outbreak on the economy including the drop in exports out of China, the fall of tourism, the demand for sanitary products, and much more. If you’re seeing an impact on your business operations due to the coronavirus and trickle-down global effects, you’re walking a fine line with practically every other business in the world. Relief from that impact can be found in bankruptcy.

To learn more about finding debt relief in Waseca, MN through bankruptcy, contact Behm Law Group, Ltd. today at (507) 387-7200 or stephen@mankatobankruptcy.com.