Articles Posted in consumer issues

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Because of the historic economic impact  of COVID-19, economists are predicting a “tsunami” of personal bankruptcy filings.  Well-known businesses like J. Crew, Beall’s, Goody’s, Gold’s Gym and Neiman Marcus recently filed for bankruptcy protection. Most major airlines could face bankruptcy without a government bailout.

Americans who have become used to using credit cards as a stop-gap measure to survive pay-cuts might not be able to rely  on this method since nearly 50 million Americans just had their credit card limits cut.

For centuries, companies have used bankruptcy as a tool to survive, reorganize or to shut-down. Several airlines have filed bankruptcy over the past three decades, primarily to break contracts and modify pensions.

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Nearly two months after Coronavirus exploded on the scene, some states are starting to relax stay-at-home orders, and people are slowly returning to work. It will take a lon time for the economy to recover, and  some White House advisers  are still predicting a 20% unemployment rate.

People are wondering if  the jobs they held prior to the COVID-19 crisis will still be there after things settle down. Economists argue about how many jobs will come back after the pandemic ends.

Prior to the outbreak of COVID-19, the financial press was praising the benefits of the “gig” economy. Uber drivers, Instacart shoppers and other freelancers could set their own hours and get paid in cash daily. Now, gig workers are among those hardest hit by the Coronavirus pandemic. 

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The news these days is all about Coronavirus: from television news to social media, the number one topic of the day is COVID-19.  Our screens and feeds are flooded with news about how Coronavirus has devastated the American economy.   Just this morning, NBC News had the “breaking” news that  U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) fell by 4.8% in the first quarter of the year–the biggest decline since the Great Recession.  This is probably is not much of a surprise to most of us.  Economists predict that  the worst is yet to come. Nearly Americans know that the economy has slowed down since millions of us have been laid off, furloughed, or had our incomes slashed. People without jobs and people worried about losing their jobs don’t have money to spend or are hesitant to spend it .  Because of this uncertainty, consumer confidence plunged in April.

Many Floridians are worried about how they will pay for necessities like housing, food and transportation. By now, most Americans who are eligible to receive the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act Stimulus payments have received their money. In Jacksonville, there will soon be an additional $1,000 available to each Jacksonville household that earns under $75,000 and can show they’ve taken a 25% income loss due to coronavirus.   This program will be run by the city of Jacksonville, but funded by the Federal Government. The city will be issuing payments cards to 40,000 households. One household member must apply for the assistance online or by phone and then go downtown in person (the Main Library on N. Laura Street or the Ed Ball Building on N. Hogan Street) to an appointment to receive the payment. You will go to an auditorium, while practicing social distancing.

In order to get an appointment, residents must show that they had employment as of February 29, and that the Coronavirus epidemic caused them to lose at least 25% of their income. This test should be easy to meet for “non-essential” workers, who lost jobs or income because of the governor’s or mayor’s mandated shutdown.  City Council President Scott Wilson  said he expects the website to be up and running soon, and that “the goal is to start cutting checks — and what we’re going to do is give debit cards or credit cards, gift card type things — within the next seven days.”

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Last  Friday approximately 140 million American households started  receiving Economic Impact Payments, or Stimulus “checks.” Most Americans will be receiving these payments, of at least $1,200 or more, this week. (The amount of your payment depends on your gross income and whether you have dependents.)  The Treasury Department will be directly depositing the funds into the same bank accounts where it directly deposited your 2019 tax refund. (The Stimulus payments are also being sent to people who don’t usually  file or pay federal income taxes, for example, most people who receive monthly payments from the Social Security Administration.) You can track the status of your payment at this IRS site starting today.

The reason for these payments is that the federal government wants to try to “stimulate” the economy, which COVID-1, or the coronavirus, has wrecked.  Millions of Americans have lost their jobs or seen their pay reduced since March. It has been estimated that nearly 1 out of 5 Americans has lost a job or wages because of the virus.  When consumers don’t have money to spend, the ripple effect causes most businesses to struggle. People are not buying goods and services from brick and mortar businesses, which in turn have to lay off employees who can no longer buy goods and services from other merchants. Goldman analysts see the U.S. economy contracting 24% in second quarter, a rate nearly five times as large as bank’s previous forecast

While the government wants us to spend this money to keep the wheels of commerce rolling, some banks want to seize this money to recover money owed to them by their customers. When Congress passed the CARES Act authorizing these payments, it did not characterize the funds as federal benefits, but as tax credits. This means that private debt collectors may take the money once they are in a bank account.

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Americans can’t go online, turn on the TV or go shopping without being bombarded with news about coronavirus. Our Facebook feeds are rife with posts about the virus and how much impact it will have on our every day lives.  Just a few months ago, we were gearing up for March Madness, spring break at Disneyworld, PGA Golf Tournaments and Lucero at the  Ryman Auditorium.    Now those events have been postponed or canceled, and even Orlando theme parks are closed for the rest of the month.  Just today, IRS  postponed the deadline on which income taxes are due to July 15.

Our lives have changed in a flash.  The Associated Press warns that Americans must brace for new life of no school and growing dread.  We now spend more time in line at Walmart buying toilet paper than we do lining up for Black Friday sales. Parents worry about their jobs while they wonder who’ll watch their children while they are at work since schools have extended spring break or shut down for weeks.

The world has changed.  We are told to practice “social distancing” and not come within so many feet of our fellow human beings. People are wearing medical masks and gloves when they go out. Some people walk around with Lysol bottles.

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Many people in Jacksonville, Florida rent their home residences, which is why so many of my clients ask me “how will filing Bankruptcy affect being a renter?” It seems no matter where you are in Jacksonville, Florida you cannot help but notice all of the rental complexes as well as the many new apartment and condo complexes constantly being built. There is no question about it. Jacksonville, Florida has a huge renters market. That is why it is so important to understand how filing bankruptcy will affect being a renter in such a huge rental market.

First, you will be very surprised to learn that bankruptcy most likely will not have the devastating impact on your ability to be a renter as you might expect. Of course, everyone’s specific situation is going to differ. But as long as you had a good rental history prior to filing bankruptcy, have a steady job, and make sure you do not make the same mistakes that led you into bankruptcy, you should be perfectly fine. Albeit, you might be required to make a larger security deposit or jump through a few more hoops. And the longer it has been between the time you filed bankruptcy and when you apply for a new rental agreement, the less of an affect filing bankruptcy will have on being a renter. Below are several factors potential landlords might take into account: Continue reading →

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The thought of having to file bankruptcy can be very scary. There are a lot of unknowns at first. One of the biggest unknowns is determining when it is time to finally give up, throw in the towel and actually declare bankruptcy. Meeting with an experienced bankruptcy attorney can be very helpful, but if you are not quite ready to speak with an attorney, here are a few questions to ask yourself if you are trying to decide if you should file bankruptcy now.

  1. Are you only able to make your minimum credit card payments or no payments at all?
  2. Are your wages being garnished by a Wage Garnishment Order?
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pastdueFiling for a Chapter 7 or 13 Bankruptcy is a great way to start over and free yourself from overwhelming debt. A question I often receive is how does the discharged debt appear on my credit report after the bankruptcy court has officially granted me a discharge. This article will explain what information should and should not appear on your credit report once your debt has been discharged through bankruptcy.

 The Fair Credit Reporting Act.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act, or FCRA, is the act that controls how creditors, buyers of credit, and credit reporting agencies may report debt. This act was enacted to ensure creditors and the like maintain accurate information regarding a person’s credit information. Creditors are required to truthfully and accurately report information to consumer reporting agencies.

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bankruptcy-photo-thumb-250x219-6996Filing for Bankruptcy can be both a scary and exciting prospect that allows a person deep in debt to make a fresh financial start. However, bankruptcy isn’t always the right answer. Here are a few factors to consider when deciding if declaring bankruptcy is right for you.

What type of bankruptcy should I file?

When a person decides to file for bankruptcy, he or she may be able to file two different types of bankruptcy: Chapter 7 or Chapter 13.

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Deciding when the best time to file for bankruptcy can be a very difficult issue for couples. Especially for couples who are planning to be married. While married couples can still file for bankruptcy jointly and/or separately, being married can make it more difficult to qualify for the bankruptcy chapter you wish to file.

Filing a joint bankruptcy is normally a more convenient process as it allows a couple to wipe out their debts together in a single bankruptcy. This means the couple will not have to attend separate hearings. A joint filing will save the couple money on court costs, as the filing fees are the same for an individual or joint bankruptcy. And attorneys will also charge less for a joint bankruptcy filing than if the attorney was filing two separate bankruptcy petitions.

However, filing a joint bankruptcy may not always be in the best interests of the couple depending on the couple’s income, assets, and debts. Once a couple gets married, they may have a more difficult time qualifying for a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy.

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