COVID-19 Informational Resources
The coronavirus pandemic has affected each of us in different ways. To protect ourselves both physically and financially, we must stay informed—but that can be a challenge amidst the chaos of the global crisis. Friends, news sources, and scam artists are all capable of spreading misinformation, unintentionally or otherwise.
Another challenge you may face is the lack of available resources. Many businesses, organizations, and government agencies have limited their operations or shut down entirely, but your legal or financial matter may be more pressing than ever before.
At Ast & Schmidt, P.C., we are fully committed to helping you survive the extensive consequences of COVID-19, which is why we are remaining open for business. While we are conducting all consultations via video chat, phone, and email to keep everyone safe, we are working tirelessly to stay by our clients’ sides when they need us most. The following is a compilation of COVID-19 resources, legal information, and financial strategies to help you navigate this unprecedented crisis.
Latest COVID-19 Updates
The pandemic is developing incredibly rapidly, which is why we recommend routine fact-checking and source assessment.
For the most reliable information about the pandemic, visit the following:
- New Jersey COVID-19 Information Hub
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- World Health Organization
- Our World in Data
- Medline Plus
- National Institutes of Health
New Jersey’s COVID-19 site also provides information about the state’s stay-at-home orders, financial resources, and other emergency legislation.
COVID-19 and Your Bankruptcy Case
Fortunately, the Bankruptcy Courts are still open. You can file for bankruptcy or, if you have already filed, continue your case.
Here are a few things to expect from bankruptcy in New Jersey during COVID-19:
- You can get in touch with the Clerk’s office staff by mail or email.
- Limited staff and other operational changes will most likely result in case delays.
- You are still expected to adhere to all deadlines, but you may be eligible for extensions in certain circumstances.
- Filing will continue through ECF (Electronic Case Filing).
- In-person trials or hearings may be rescheduled.
- Arguments may be conducted remotely via email and conference calls.
- Signature requirements have relaxed, and you may be able to submit electronically reproduced (rather than “wet”) signatures.
For specific details and the latest updates regarding Bankruptcy Court operations, visit here.
The CARES Act and Your Bankruptcy Case
In addition to court protocol adjustments, one major event that may influence your bankruptcy case is the passage of the CARES Act. The act contains several provisions that temporarily adjust the Bankruptcy Code.
Effective until March 27, 2021, these changes are as follows:
- If you receive federal payments under the CARES Act such as a stimulus check, an emergency grant, or enhanced employment, you will NOT need to include the aid in your Chapter 7 means test or Chapter 13 disposable income calculations. This allows you to use the financial aid without it affecting your bankruptcy eligibility or repayment plan.
- If a Bankruptcy Court approved a Chapter 13 repayment plan before the pandemic, you may be able to modify this plan if you experience financial hardship due to COVID-19. Specifically, you can extend your repayment plan from 3-5 years to 7 years, thereby lowering your monthly payments.
- To qualify for Subchapter V (small business bankruptcy) of Chapter 11, you can owe up to $7,500,000 in debt. Because the threshold is normally $2,725,625, more companies will now qualify as small businesses and be able to file under Subchapter V.
While the CARES Act provides several powerful relief packages, bankruptcy is arguably the only long-term solution to unmanageable debt, and these temporary adjustments make bankruptcy more accessible and beneficial to both individuals and businesses.
Paying Your Bills During the Pandemic
If you experienced a layoff or unexpected medical expense, you may be unsure of how to make ends meet or support your family. If so, you are not alone—and, although it may not feel like it, you have several options for relief.
Before resorting to credit cards or loans, we recommend the following financial strategies:
- Dip into savings. Although it may be painful to diminish years’ worth of prudent money management, this is exactly the time to use your savings. Charging a credit card or taking out a loan will only worsen your situation later.
- Call service providers. From insurance companies to internet providers, many companies have decided to assist their customers during COVID-19. For example, you may be able to adjust your auto policy because you are no longer commuting to work. Some companies are even offering discounts or payment suspension options.
- Communicate with your creditors. If you cannot afford a credit card or loan payment, get in touch with your lender as soon as possible. Creditors are much more likely to work with borrowers who are proactive and communicative. They may be able to lower your interest rate, extend your terms, or suspend payments. We do, however, urge you to communicate in writing, especially if you come to an agreement.
- Determine whether you are protected by a state or federal foreclosure/eviction moratorium. New Jersey Governor Murphy issued an executive order on March 19th enacting a 60-day statewide moratorium on foreclosures and evictions. While moratoriums do not permanently prevent a foreclosure or eviction from taking place, it does give you time to find a long-term solution.
We also recommend checking your credit report frequently. Amidst the chaos of the pandemic, both mistakes and scams have become more common. If you stay vigilant, you can dispute inaccuracies, protect sensitive information, and prevent avoidable marks on your credit report.
Get in Touch with Our Team for Personalized Support
No matter what legal or financial issue you have, Ast & Schmidt, P.C. is ready to assist. We can help you assess your options, take full advantage of financial relief opportunities, and overcome unexpected hurdles along the way.
Our team of bankruptcy attorneys at Ast & Schmidt, P.C. can take the right actions to help you achieve relief from crushing debt. We promise you, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.