These Are Challenging Times...
A Message from Brett Weiss:
May 14, 2020. Although the State of Maryland will start to gradually reopen on May 15, for your health, and the health and safety of our employees, our office will remain closed to the public. Both my staff and I will continue to work from home, as the guidance from the state on reopening offices states, "Employees are encouraged to continue to work from home where possible.” Additionally, my wife has a compromised immune system, and I will do all in my power to protect her from contacting this brutal illness. Accordingly, all client conferences and Court hearings will continue to be held via videoconferencing and telephone.
Having said all of that, I am available 24/7 via email, phone, and Zoom, and my law firm remains fully operational online. Although state and federal courts are currently closed, I can file new cases, and motions and pleadings in existing cases, electronically from my desk. I am in regular and active communication with the Court, the Bankruptcy Trustees, the United States Trustees, and members of the Bar to make sure that your case stays on track and you continue to receive the best representation possible. If you're in trouble because of the coronavirus (or otherwise), we'll work hard to help you.
In the meantime, stay safe, stay masked, and to the extent possible, stay home. Listen to our public health experts. Stay healthy for your sake and for the sake of those who love and care about you.
The coronavirus has changed everything.
Layoffs, closures, and social distancing, while necessary for public health, have had a devastating impact on individuals and businesses. Even the Courts have been closed. Lost wages and business closures have changed your financial picture and require you to look at things in a new light.
Because this is a difficult and seemingly desperate time for many people and business owners, I want to provide some basic financial advice about what to do and not to do during the ongoing crisis. As a bankruptcy attorney, I deal with many people and business owners on the brink of financial turmoil every day. Many people are finding themselves out of work at this time and may need help prioritizing their finances. Here are some basic tips.
These are tips if you do not file for bankruptcy. A Chapter 7, Chapter 11, Chapter 12, or Chapter 13 will deal with most or all of these issues directly, without your needing to make individual arrangements.
Do NOT cash out retirement accounts. If you file for bankruptcy, all of the money in your retirement accounts -- 401(k)s, IRAs, etc. -- are fully protected and cannot be taken by your creditors.
DO prioritize payments to creditors carefully. Food and bare essentials first. Then basic housing expenses (assuming Congress does not pass legislation dealing with housing payments. Foreclosures and evictions are stayed right now by state law, but not payments or the accrual of payments, interest, and fees, and there is no current law saying what will happen once the stay expires).
If you rent, reach out to your landlord and ask for an extension on rent if necessary.
If you have a mortgage, immediately go online to the mortgage company’s loss mitigation options. It probably has a new page dealing with special options as a result of the coronavirus.
Reach out to utility companies -- BGE and PEPCO -- and ask for a hardship extension on payments. Again, their websites likely have new resources (see below), since many of their customers are or shortly will be struggling.
Lost your job? Immediately apply for unemployment benefits online (see below).
Student loan payments should immediately be deferred or placed on forbearance during this time if possible. Apply for an income-based repayment plan. Try to keep basic cash savings of at least $1,000 for emergencies.
Do NOT pay any medical bills from BIG hospitals in full. Request a payment plan.
Tickets from the city? Call and ask for an extension of time to pay fines and tickets. This also applies to court fines.
Tolls owed to the tollway authority? Apply for a hardship settlement.
The filing deadline for 2019 income taxes has been extended to July 15, 2020. If you owe the IRS or state taxes, call and work out a payment plan.
Credit cards should not be a priority unless your basic living expenses are met. Ask for payment deferments but expect all lines of credit to be shut down quickly.
Finally, ask for help. Ask questions, stay INDOORS, and stay safe.
Focus on family and friends and above all prioritize kindness and compassion to others.
I have compiled a list of resources to help people who live in Maryland. Please go through the list asap to see if you qualify for any assistance if you need it.
1. Apply for unemployment benefits: Unemployment Benefits
2. Navigate the SBA (Small Business Association) site for additional help: SBA Resources
3. Facebook has announced a Facebook Small Business Grants Program that you can apply for: FB Small Business Grants
5. IRS tax relief help including a NEW tax deadline of July 15th: IRS Tax Relief
6. Information from Navient for student loan relief: Navient
7. General student loan relief information: General Student Loan Relief
8. Bartender Emergency Assistance Program: Bartender Emergency Assistance
9. Emergency Rental Assistance: Emergency Rental Assistance
10. Maryland Domestic Violence hotline: Domestic Violence Hotline
11. Recommendations from the CDC on how to protect yourself from the COVID-19 virus: Protecting Yourself from COVID-19
12. Free school meals for children while schools are closed: Link
13. Resources for kids to do work while out of school: Resources (and check your local school district)
14. The most up to date statistics on the Coronavirus here in Maryland: Maryland statistics on COVID-19
15. A CDC household checklist to prepare your home for an outbreak: Household Preparation Checklist
16. BGE Coronavirus Customer Support: BGE
17. PEPCO Coronavirus Customer Support: PEPCO