Review of Bankruptcy in 2020

The year 2020 was a blockbuster one for disaster, with a global pandemic and a contentious U.S. presidential election, respectively, as the opening and closing credits. For many Americans, the biggest impact was the financial changes they had to face due to COVID-19’s effect on the U.S. economy. Despite the small boost the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act provided in early 2020 and the short span of federally increased unemployment checks, many households are still struggling to make ends meet due to coronavirus-related circumstances. If you’re among the thousands who are finding it impossible to make financial ends meet, bankruptcy is still available to debtors even in times when some courts may be closed for in-person cases. Those considering filing for bankruptcy in Owatonna, MN, and the surrounding areas can find guidance and protection from Behm Law Group Ltd. attorneys.

 

As we move into 2021, we can look back and see how the pandemic and government actions to support citizens impacted bankruptcy statistics. We can also predict how cases may increase or decrease depending on how stimulus bills and other support systems are enacted this year.

 

Some Basic 2020 Statistics*

*Cited from a GlobeNewswire report published January 21, 2021.

 

  1. The total number of 2020 bankruptcies cases across all chapters was 529,068. This is the lowest case rate in the United States since 1986.
  2. Chapter 11 business bankruptcy cases reached 7,128—a 29% increase from 2019.
  3. Chapter 13 individual consumer cases reached 147,144—a 46% decrease from 2019.
  4. Chapter 7 individual consumer cases reached 348,42—a 22% decrease from 2019.
  5. The 2020 CARES act released in March totaled $2.2 trillion, sending $1,200 per adult and $500 per child to households making under $75,000 a year.
  6. The second 2020 stimulus act released in December totaled $900 billion, sending $600 per person in households making under $75,000 a year.
  7. In 2021, the U.S. Congress may approve President Joe Biden’s proposed stimulus act totaling $1.9 trillion, sending an additional $1,400 per person in households making under $75,000 a year.

 

The balance between government-issued stimulus checks and increased unemployment benefits most likely played a role in helping people facing daunting financial circumstances. For many U.S. citizens struggling with debts, the stimulus checks gave temporary stability during difficult times. That stability may continue through some of 2021 if more stimulus support is provided through Biden’s proposed plan. However, if the current situation continues the way it is and the coronavirus dangers aren’t relieved, the economy will have a hard time recovering back to pre-COVID conditions. This may mean an increase in bankruptcy cases this year.

 

The distribution of vaccines to prevent coronavirus and time will be major factors in considering our country’s future economic health. If you’re struggling now, it could be the best time to file for bankruptcy in Owatonna, MN, and the surrounding communities. To learn more about the process, call Behm Law Group Ltd. at (507) 387-7200 or email stephen@mankatobankruptcy.com.

 

 

Part Three: Utility Bills and Debt Relief This Winter

This is the third and final part of a blog series covering frequently asked questions regarding utility bills and bankruptcy. Because the coldest months of the year are just beginning, it’s important to keep gas, water, and other utilities running to protect your household or business from frozen pipes and interrupted hot water sources.

When you’re unable to pay monthly utility bills, you risk service shut off when debts accumulate. Filing for bankruptcy relief can stop service shut offs and discharge utility debts permanently. If you are considering filing for bankruptcy, Behm Law Group, Ltd. can help you through the process and find effective, permanent debt relief in Owatonna, MN and the surrounding area.

These are a few more of the most commonly asked questions about utility bills in bankruptcy.

Is my cable considered a utility? How can I stop it from possibly being shut off?

While cable television is not technically a utility, it’s still a service that will be shut off when you default on your monthly bill payments. Fortunately, cable bill debts can also be included in your bankruptcy and can be permanently discharged. If you list your cable debt amount, the automatic stay injunctive provisions of 11 U.S.C. §362 will apply to your cable provider and to all of your other utility providers, and your cable television debt will be discharged with all of your other unsecured utility debts.

My provider is asking for a large security deposit to reconnect my service. Can the bankruptcy court help me pay it?

One form of adequate assurance (see part two to learn about adequate assurance) your utility provider might require from you in order to continue service is a security deposit amount that is too much for you to pay. If you filed for bankruptcy protection, the bankruptcy court will be able to help. When you cannot come to an agreement with your utility creditor about the security deposit amount, you can request the bankruptcy court to reduce the security deposit to an amount that you can afford to pay.

I’ve paid my bills on time for a year now. Can I get my security deposit back?

If you filed for bankruptcy relief, provided a security deposit as an assurance, and then paid your bills on time for the twelve-month period after your bankruptcy was concluded, you may be eligible for the return of the security deposit. Reach out to your utility provider for more information about the possible return of your security deposit and how that process might work.

To learn more about the treatment of utility debts, unsecured or secured debts, and the process of obtaining permanent debt relief by filing bankruptcy in Owatonna, MN, contact Behm Law Group, Ltd. today at (507) 387-7200 or stephen@mankatobankruptcy.com.

What the Student Borrower Bankruptcy Relief Act Means for Filers

As the only law firm practicing exclusively in bankruptcy in southern Minnesota, we’ve worked with many clients over the years at Behm Law Group, Ltd. Each of these clients had different financial circumstances, but they were all after the same goal of permanent debt relief and financial stability for themselves and their families. There are several types of debt that can be readily discharged in bankruptcy. However, the discharge of student loan debt is difficult. While student loan debt is largely excepted from discharge in the process, unless one can sue the student loan lender and show “undue hardship”, a new bill introduced in the United States House of Representatives may be a sign of changes in how student loan debts are treated in bankruptcy. If this new bill were to pass in the United States Senate and be signed into law by the President, filing for bankruptcy relief in Waseca, MN, and the surrounding communities may be a beneficial option to households with student loan debt.

In May 2019, the Student Borrower Bankruptcy Relief Act (SBBRA) was introduced in the United States House of Representatives. The SBBRA is “a bill to provide relief for student borrowers.” Essentially, this bill would remove restrictions from the bankruptcy code that have made it much more difficult to discharge student loans.

The current bankruptcy code requires filers to prove “undue hardship” in order to qualify for the discharge of student loans. Since the passage of the 2005 Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act (BAPCPA) amendments to the bankruptcy code, the discharge of student loan debt became even more difficult because the exception to discharge under 11 U.S.C. § 523(a)(8) was expanded to include both federally guaranteed student loans and student loans made by private parties. In order to prove undue hardship, one must actually sue a student loan lender in bankruptcy court. Commencing a lawsuit against a student loan lender is an expensive and protracted process. The costs associated with such a process can be $20,000 or more.

If the SBBRA bill is passed into law, the requirement of having to prove undue hardship in order to have student loan debt discharged will be removed. This bill is a result of growing momentum around student loan debt forgiveness in the past five years. Although many don’t expect this bill to be approved by the United States Senate if it is passed in the United States House of Representatives, it’s still a possibility at this point. If the bill passes, thousands of individuals with hundreds of thousands of student loan debts and accrued interest would have bankruptcy as an option to be permanently rid of such debts.

If the bill doesn’t pass, many believe it is still a sign of changes in how student loans are handled in the United States. Other signs, like the recent McDaniel v. Navient case where $200,000 in student loan debt was discharged, point to growing concerns that individuals will not be able to repay student debts. The 2020 election will most likely be the tipping point that determines whether beneficial changes to the bankruptcy code allowing the discharge of student loan debts will become reality.

Even though it is presently very difficult and very expensive to try and discharge student loan debts in bankruptcy, there are still many other debts that can be effectively eliminated in a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 petition. To learn more about filing for bankruptcy relief in Waseca, MN, with the assistance of Behm Law Group Ltd. attorneys, contact us at (507) 387-7200 or email us at stephen@mankatobankruptcy.com.

McDaniels v. Navient Case Might Change How Student Loans Are Treated by the Bankruptcy Code

At Behm Law Group, Ltd., we work with clients to guide them through Chapter 7, Chapter 12, and Chapter 13 bankruptcy cases and the bankruptcy code as a whole. We primarily work with individual consumers but also provide legal representation to small businesses.

If you’re struggling to make debt payments each month, it may be time for you to consider filing for bankruptcy to find permanent debt relief. However, in order to determine if filing bankruptcy would benefit your situation you must consider the types of debt you have. While debts like credit card debt, medical bills, mortgages, and car loans are readily discharged in bankruptcy, some other common debts, such as student loans, are largely excepted from discharge in the bankruptcy process. With the help of Behm attorneys, you can find out how helpful the current bankruptcy code in Mankato, MN and nearby regions will be for discharging your debts.

For those with high student loan debt, it’s currently difficult to have that type of debt discharged in bankruptcy. Under 11 U.S.C. § 523(a)(8), student loans can be discharged in bankruptcy only if a person is able to commence a lawsuit against a student loan lender and establish facts showing that retaining the debt would create an “undue hardship”. After the recent McDaniels v. Navient case, though, there may soon be ways to have student loan debt discharged more easily. In the McDaniels v. Navient case, Laura Paige McDaniel was able to have $200,000 discharged in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy.

Details of the Case

Laura McDaniels originally borrowed $120,000 in student loans to cover her tuition to undergraduate and graduate school. When it became difficult for her to keep making high payments on this debt, her loan provider, Navient, did not offer any options for a repayment plan because only federal loan providers are required to work with borrowers to establish lenient payment plans. Unable to pay student loans and other debts, McDaniels went into bankruptcy. While her bankruptcy was ongoing, Navient continued to add thousands onto her student loans in interest.

After some time of being unable to pay the huge outstanding debt, McDaniels petitioned the bankruptcy court to reopen her case and include her private student loan debt for discharge. Though Navient appealed to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, the lower bankruptcy court ruling that her student loan interest was not “an obligation to repay funds received as an educational benefit” because they “were not made solely for the ‘cost of attendance’” was affirmed. McDaniels, therefore, received a discharge of $200,000 in student loan debt.

What This Changes

While this will most likely not affect changes to the bankruptcy code immediately, it’s a sign that changes that would help those who have student loan debt are coming. With the additional changes the proposed Student Borrower Bankruptcy Relief Act may make to the bankruptcy code, it’s highly possible that the treatment of student loans in bankruptcy might be very different in the near future.

Let the Professionals Help You Navigate the Bankruptcy Code

To learn more about filing and the bankruptcy code in Mankato, MN, contact Behm Law Group, Ltd. at (507) 387-7200 or stephen@mankatobankruptcy.com today.

COVID-19 Medical Expenses and Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

Even for those with excellent health insurance, mounting medical bills can put a serious strain on finances. During this time especially, with the threat of COVID-19, many U.S. citizens fear a serious medical bill might cause a loss of financial stability. In fact, a recent survey showed that about half of Americans felt a serious medical cost would force them to file for bankruptcy relief.

 

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, this belief has increased by around 5% since 2019. While the threat of poor health and financial downturn is a scary possibility to keep at the forefront of your day-to-day, it’s important to remember that if you do have to file a bankruptcy case, those medical debts and many others will be quickly resolved. With the guidance and support of a Behm Law Group, Ltd. attorney, you can file a successful case for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Owatonna, MN and receive long-term, effective debt relief.

 

Chapter 7 bankruptcy is a liquidation bankruptcy process. Essentially, this means your non-exempt assets will be sold (liquidated) and that non-exempt value will be paid to your creditors. The liquidation/sale of non-exempt assets is the exception rather than the rule of how things usually transpire in a chapter 7 bankruptcy case, however. Typically, all that people lose in a chapter 7 bankruptcy case are their unwanted debts.  Because the bankruptcy system is in place to help debtors who cannot repay their debts reorganize and rehabilitate their financial affairs, you will have the opportunity to assert bankruptcy exemptions that protect your property from the liquidation process. This typically includes protecting your house with the homestead exemption and protecting your car with a vehicle exemption. This means filers aren’t left completely destitute while fairness to creditors is still taken into account.

 

There are three main types of debt broken down in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case:

 

  1. Priority debt, including child support, alimony, some tax debts, and others, all of which will be generally excepted from discharge in any bankruptcy process.
  2. Secured debt, such as a mortgage or car loan, you’ll pay in full if you want to retain the property securing (serving as collateral for) the debt. If you don’t want to retain the property, you’ll have that debt fully discharged.
  3. Unsecured debt, including medical bills and credit card debt, is discharged in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case. If you’re struggling from severe medical debt from a COVID-19 case or any other treatment cost, a Chapter 7 bankruptcy might be the most effective debt relief option for you.

 

If the majority of your debts are unsecured and you know you can protect your home or other important property with exemptions, Chapter 7 will likely be a very effective way of obtaining long-term financial reorganization and rehabilitation.

 

To learn more about Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Owatonna, MN or the surrounding area, contact Behm Law Group, Ltd. today at (507) 387-7200 or stephen@mankatobankruptcy.com.

 

COVID-19 Stimulus and Bankruptcy

As the future of potential stimulus bills is still undecided, households across the United States are keeping a close eye on their finances. For some, a stimulus check may mean the difference between making a rent payment or being evicted. Not only do proposed stimulus bills offer a second check, they also extend several aspects that protect debtors from backlash if they are unable to meet monthly payments. If you are one of those debtors who faces unstable finances for any reason, this may be the ideal time to take action for long-term debt relief. Filing for bankruptcy may be the best option for your circumstances. With the help of Behm Law Group Ltd., you can determine if filing for bankruptcy in Luverne, MN, and the surrounding area is right for you.

 

When the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act was established in March 2020, $2.2 trillion was used for various support systems for individuals and businesses across the United States. Anyone who filed for bankruptcy after the CARES Act passed knows that the stimulus checks and other aspects of the bill were protected assets in their bankruptcy cases. They could not be seized by the trustees administering their bankruptcy cases.  If you are worried about losing that vital stimulus support after the next bill passes, fear not. Any income from COVID-19 stimulus will be exempt from liquidation in Chapter 7 bankruptcy or a repayment plan in Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Additionally, the boost in income from the stimulus won’t prevent you from qualifying for bankruptcy.

 

While we wait for the next stimulus bill to pass, we can compare the CARES Act to what might be coming. Nearly all of us experienced the benefits of the CARES Act, so if we look at the differences between the proposed HEROES (Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency

Solutions) and HEALS (Help End Abusive Living Situations) Acts, we can predict how each might affect us.

 

Total cost of each packages

  • CARES: $2.2 trillion
  • HEROES: $3 trillion
  • HEALS: $1 trillion

 

Stimulus check amounts

  • CARES: $1,200 for each individual earning under $75,000, $2,400 for joint earners making under $125,000 with a reduction of $5 from every $100 for earners making more than income maximums
  • HEROES: same as CARES
  • HEALS: same as CARES

 

Stimulus check additions for dependents

  • CARES: $500 per dependent 16 and younger, which eliminated college students from receiving either a stimulus check or dependent additions
  • HEROES: maximum of three additions of $1,200 per dependent
  • HEALS: $500 per dependent with no age limit

 

Unemployment benefit additions

  • CARES: additional $600 per unemployment check, plus the usual state benefits
  • HEROES: same as CARES
  • HEALS: starting additional $200 per unemployment check, which will increase to an additional $500 per unemployment check to match 70% of lost wages subtracted against the state unemployment check

 

Many parts of the CARES Act expired at the end of July, but eviction moratoriums and other protections are still in place for those unable to meet rent and debt payments. Because of these protections, it is still viable to file for bankruptcy during this time. To get started on your bankruptcy in Luverne, MN, today, contact Behm Law Group Ltd. at (507) 387-7200 or stephen@mankatobankruptcy.com.