This is not the usual Blog. And these are not usual times. That’s an understatement! As an attorney who deals with people in financial emergencies every day, I am going to give an update on what is happening here, with my Bankruptcy firm, on the front line in Northern Illinois and the Chicago area.
We are open and ready to help, and will do what we can to keep you informed. We are always available by email, text, and phone. We are going to limit in-person meetings to only essential meetings, and have more meetings by phone/video conference.
The first priority for everyone is staying healthy, and staying away from large gatherings, to try to slow and limit the spread of this potentially deadly virus. And, the most important people who need our support are the medical professionals, Doctors, Nurses and everyone else working in the field. If you feel the symptoms, call your doctor and arrange to get tested. See the CDC Guidelines here.
Courts: Cook County Courts are closed, except for essential services. This does not mean, necessarily, that foreclosure sales already allowed by the Court, will stop, or that the other Cook County offices such as the Sherriff, for evictions, will stop.
Federal Bankruptcy Court is open. If you are faced with garnishment on your paycheck, or Foreclosure Sale, or other financial emergency, all filings are done electronically. Some Judges are limiting in-person court appearances, but each Judge, and each situation is different. Check with a Bankruptcy Lawyer to get up to date information. So far, required Meetings of Creditors are in person. But, if you are sick at all, you should contact your attorney to request a continuance.
Everyone is going to feel a financial hit. Medical bills, loss of work, and events cancelling will cause hardship for many people. Most people can’t handle losing a week of pay under good times. And, with schools in Illinois closing, there’s the problem of childcare. Take a breath, and remember what, and who, is important. Talk with your spouse and kids, and spend some family time together. We don’t know how long the emergency will last, but most experts have said it will get worse before it gets better.
Money and spending: This may seem obvious, but cut spending where you can, and spend smartly. Don’t go to Costco and buy a dozen rolls of toilet paper or massive amounts of hand sanitizer. Don’t panic buy! Do stock up on essentials, like bread, milk, eggs, and canned goods. Don’t overdo it! The stuff will expire eventually, and others need supplies too! So far, stores have been open, and should be getting more stock in. If you panic buy, you’ll go over budget, and your credit card balances will shoot up! You’ll have to pay the bill in a month!
Do add to your emergency fund, or start one if you don’t have one. This is the exact time to be ready for!
Pay your bills! If you are running short because of lost hours or a lost paycheck, here’s the order of priority: 1. Mortgage, 2. Car payments., 3. Association Dues, 4. Utilities, 5. Everything else, including credit cards. If you have to pay slightly less on a card, do that, rather than missing a payment, because if you miss a payment, or are late, your interest rate on that card, and every other one, will spike up! Even in a National Emergency, you have to keep up on your bills! Nobody will excuse your payments!
Note, the Federal Government announced that interest will not accrue on Federal Student Loans for some undefined time period. This does not mean that you can skip a payment. This does not apply to Private Student Loans! See this explanation of the announcement.
Prepare to file your Income Tax Returns on time! The government is considering an extension to file, but you will have to file them soon! And pay any amount due. You will have more time now to get everything together, so get it to your tax preparer now, so they will have time to prepare your return!
Bottom Line—Be Prepared, limit your social contact, but don’t panic, and keep your finances in order.
Questions? We are here to help! This situation is changing by the hour, so be sure to stay informed!
Daniel J. Winter