Filing for Bankruptcy During COVID-19
During these uncertain times, many people are facing new challenges with their financial situation. Currently, the only law in place is the CARES Act, however, Congress is discussing additional assistance with the HEROS/HEALS Act. Due to the changing nature of the situation, there are many questions, including how the extra funds from the Federal unemployment and the direct stimulus payments may impact your bankruptcy.
Here’s what you need to know if you’re considering filing for bankruptcy because of coronavirus.
Can I File for Bankruptcy During the Coronavirus Outbreak?
Yes, filing for bankruptcy is still available during the Coronavirus outbreak. Filing for bankruptcy is done electronically, so the US Bankruptcy Courts have been available for filing this entire time. Our office procedures have been modified to provide over-the-telephone consultations, electronic documents, and web-based meetings. We look forward to assisting our clients with their financial needs during these trying times.
How is COVID-19 Affecting Bankruptcy?
During this time, bankruptcies are conducted in the same basic processes as prior to the pandemic, except that the required creditor’s meeting is being held telephonically through at least October 10, 2020. Any money received from the CARES Act is not subject to the median income test, which determines whether a debtor must file a Chapter 13.
Through our office, the bankruptcy packet has been converted to fill out on-line and all of the documentation can be sent via email, Dropbox, or by dropping off the paperwork at the dropbox at our physical office. We are available to discuss any questions you have by contacting our office for a free consultation.
How long will the Bankruptcy Rules under the Federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act Last?
The changes related to bankruptcy law are set to expire one year from the date the law was enacted on March 27, 2020.
How Is Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Affected by COVID-19?
The bankruptcy process for Chapter 7 is slightly different during the pandemic than usual. The main difference is that the creditor’s meeting (341 Meeting) is held over the telephone versus in person. Any payments received through the CARES Act are not included in the means test and do not count towards disposable income.
How is Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Affected by COVID-19?
Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code has a new addition called Subchapter 5 Bankruptcy. This new Subchapter can be elected or chosen when filing a Chapter 11. By electing to use Subchapter 5, a business goes into a more streamlined bankruptcy process that reduces costs, speeds up the process and makes a normal Chapter 11 less complicated. With many businesses now detrimentally affected by Covid-19, Subchapter 5 bankruptcy will likely be used more in the near future to keep struggling businesses open and allow for their financial restructure.
How Is Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Affected by COVID-19?
The bankruptcy process for Chapter 13 is slightly different during the pandemic than usual. The main difference is that the creditor’s meeting (341 Meeting) is held over the telephone versus in person. Any payments received through the CARES Act are not included in the means test and do not count towards disposable income.
Additionally, if the Chapter 13 was confirmed as of March 27, 2020, there are options available under the CARES Act for extending the term of the plan up to 84 months from the date of filing for those affected by the economic hardship due to the pandemic ( 11 U.S.C. § 1329)(d)(1))
What if I’m Unable to Make My Chapter 13 Payments For Reasons Related to COVID-19?
If you find yourself unable to make your Chapter 13 payments due to economic hardship related to the pandemic, you should contact your attorney as soon as possible to discuss options for your case. If your case was confirmed prior to March 27, 2020, you may be eligible to extend the term of your plan, thereby reducing your monthly payment.
How are Chapter 13 Plans Being Handled During COVID-19
Chapter 13 plans are calculated based on several factors, including income received in the last six months. The stimulus payments and any additional unemployment received from Federal unemployment was excluded from the calculation.
Should you experience job loss, you may be eligible to have your plan payment reduced. You should also contact your attorney to find out about making your plan payment directly so as to not fall behind on car loans or mortgages, if those are part of your plan payment. Any changes in your situation should be brought to your attorney’s attention.
Are the Courts in Washington State Open During the Coronavirus Outbreak?
The Clerk’s Office at the Bankruptcy Court is now open, however, bankruptcy cases are transmitted electronically to be filed and the ability to file cases has not been affected during the closures. To find out if your State or Local courts are open, you should contact that court directly.
Will I Still Have to Go to Court During the Coronavirus Outbreak?
The Eastern District of Washington is conducting all of the court hearings over the telephone through at least October 10, 2020. Until that time, there are no in-person creditors meetings.
During the Coronavirus Outbreak Will There Still Be an In-Person Meeting of Creditors?
As of right now, all Meeting of Creditors will be held telephonically through October 10, 2020. Your attorney will provide you with a telephone number and access code to call into your Meeting of Creditors at the appointed date and time. Any creditors who wish to ask questions may also call during this time. Your attorney will be on the line with you and will verify your identity to the Trustee.
Will I Lose My Stimulus Money If I Claim Bankruptcy?
The CARES Act payments were not attached by the Trustees in the Eastern District of WA. However, until the next laws are passed and the amount and terms of the stimulus decided, it is unknown whether the stimulus money would be at risk in a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy .
Can Creditors Take My Stimulus Check?
If there is an active garnishment against your bank account and the funds are deposited, a creditor may be able to attach those funds. Filing a Chapter 7 or a Chapter 13 bankruptcy will protect your funds from creditor garnishment as all collection action is ceased upon the filing of a bankruptcy.
How Does the Extra Federal Unemployment Affect My bankruptcy?
The extra unemployment benefits are not counted towards the median income level for your family size, however, there may be other ways in which the additional money affects your case. Since the effects are on a case-by-case basis, you should discuss your weekly benefit and expenses with your attorney to determine whether you are affected by the additional Federal unemployment benefit.
Can I Get a COVID Forbearance on My Mortgage While in Bankruptcy?
Prior to applying for a forbearance on your mortgage, you should discuss the implications with your attorney. Depending on the chapter filed, there may be repercussions to obtaining a forbearance of your mortgage and the risks should be discussed before making any arrangements with your mortgager.
Understand Your Options and Get Guidance on How to Navigate Bankruptcy during COVID-19
Many Americans have been struggling financially during this time. With high unemployment and the future uncertain, it may be hard to envision and path through this difficult period. If you are struggling with debt and need assistance in figuring out if bankruptcy is the best option, call our office to schedule a no-cost, no-obligation consultation with our attorney.
Debt can be a heavy burden, and we are here to help. Call us now at (509)921-9500.
Real concern, real help, and the consultation is free.