Important Information for Your Payments During the Covid-19 Financial Crisis

Our lives were upturned in a couple of days last month with the COVID-19 pandemic.  Now we’re looking in the next few weeks (hopefully!) to come out of the “stay-at-home phase” of our current lives and pick up the pieces of our personal finances.  In any case, it’s going to take a long while before our economy recovers from this devastation. We are all sharing in a world of hurt. We are all scared.

Many of you may have what is classified as a “non-essential” job, where you are not working and not getting paid. Others of you may have had to leave your employment because you have had to stay home with your school-age children. Or you may be “lucky” enough to still be employed, but are earning less because you are on commission and aren’t making as many sales.

The offices of Horwitz & Horwitz are open during this time, although we are basically working by telephone and email rather than meeting with clients directly. [Read more…]

A Word to Small Business Owners

We are all watching our financial world crumble before us.  Even as we thank our lucky stars that we and our families have yet been spared being “infected” with COVID-19, we are all to a great extent “affected”.  Especially those of us who have small businesses, either LLCs, partnerships or sole proprietorships.  We don’t qualify for unemployment compensation.  The value to us of the Cares Act is yet to be seen.

How might the Cares Act help small business owners?

Recovery Rebates

  1. It is planned to provide all U.S. residents with incomes of less than $75,000 with $1200 for singles and $2400 for married couples;
  2. Those residents with dependent children are eligible to receive an additional $500 per child, so long as the child would qualify for the Child Tax Credit (basically, under 17 years of age).
  3. Checks will be sent to the address or bank account used on your 2018 or 2019 tax returns, with no action required for most eligible recipients.

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Coronavirus (COVID-19) and its Impact on Criminal Cases

In light of COVID-19 and its unprecedented impact on our entire way of living, I will briefly discuss several temporary changes pertaining to Criminal Cases in Southwest Ohio, with special emphasis on Montgomery and Warren Counties.

  1. JAILS ARE LESS LIKELY TO ACCEPT NEW INMATES INTO THEIR FACILITIES. To slow down the spread of this pandemic, jail populations have been reduced to minimize the risk to staff and inmates.  It appears that only the highest risk offenders (violent offenders, history of fleeing) are being booked into the jails.
  2. COURTS AND JAILS ARE WORKING TOGETHER TO RELEASE OR SHORTEN THE SENTENCES OF INMATES CURRENTLY IN JAIL.

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Horwitz & Horwitz, LLC’s Response to Coronavirus (COVID-19)

We at Horwitz & Horwitz, LLC sincerely hope that everyone reading this message is taking whatever measures are necessary to keep themselves and their families safe and healthy during this uncertain time.

As a provider of legal services, HORWITZ & HORWITZ, LLC is deemed an “Essential Business and Operation” and exempt from the Ohio Director of Health’s Stay at Home Order requiring all non-essential businesses to cease all non-basic operations.  In essence, this Order recognizes that there are certain legal matters impacting the public that cannot be ignored until a date uncertain.  As a law firm that focuses on Bankruptcy and Criminal/Juvenile Law, we understand that the financial stress people are dealing with as a result of job loss or reduction in income or the stress of facing a criminal charge may be just as difficult as dealing with the health crises caused by COVID-19.

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The Reagan Tokes Act: Does GPS Electronic Monitoring of Parolees Give the Public a False Sense of Security?

It’s the kind of crime that stabs you right in your gut and stays there. A beautiful, vivacious OSU student is attacked, raped and murdered as she leaves her part-time job in Columbus, near campus. Her attacker is subsequently caught and tried for murder, requiring her devastated parents and sister to sit through and even testify at a heart-rending trial. Yes, he’s convicted and sentenced to life in prison. But sadly, that’s not the end to this story, as the family of Reagan Tokes sadly discovered.

The worst part of this story is that this monster was actually wearing an “ankle bracelet” GPS tracking monitor during the time of the offense – on early release from a past rape conviction of a young, pregnant woman. Despite being housed in a “re-entry” program for ex-offenders, his whereabouts were not being monitored by either the GPS provider or the housing center in real-time. Most of us naively believe that if someone on home incarceration wanders outside of designated areas, an alarm must alert authorities to the fact that the wearer is not where they are supposed to be. The Tokes family found out that’s a myth, something the perpetrator surely already knew. [Read more…]

Bankruptcy Help on the Way for Student Loan Borrowers

At long last, it appears that Congress is looking to help the millions of people saddled with student loan debt that they have no hope of ever totally repaying.   That help is coming through the bankruptcy laws being changed to make it possible to discharge (wipe out) those loans through bankruptcy proceedings.

Student loan debt has been a tremendous problem nationwide.  It is estimated that as many as forty-four million Americans owe more than $1.5 trillion in outstanding student loans.  That makes student loan debt second only to credit card debt as the highest category of debts owed by Americans.  The sponsor of the proposed legislation, Sen. Dick Durbin, hopes that it can be an escape clause for student loan borrowers who, he says, carry their student loan debts to their graves. [Read more…]

Ohio Legislature Amends Intervention in Lieu of Conviction (ILC) Statute, Broadening Eligibility

Intervention in Lieu of Conviction or ILC is a program in which an eligible offender charged with a low-level non-violent felony offense, who committed the offense due to drug or alcohol usage or mental illness or intellectual disability, has the opportunity to obtain a dismissal of the charge(s) after completing court-ordered treatment.  This is a huge opportunity for a person be rehabilitated, without having the stigma and complications resulting from a felony conviction.

Originally, ILC was limited to first-time offenders.  Through a series of amendments to the statute, ILC was made available to offenders with a prior non-violent felony conviction, but only if participation was recommended by the prosecuting attorney.  As you would expect, recommendations from the prosecuting attorney were often few and far between.  Furthermore, offenders who have already “been through” ILC in the past were ineligible to participate in ILC again in a subsequent case.

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What Is The Importance Of My Credit Rating?

Calculator and graphing paperYou are surely aware that the three major credit reporting agencies (CRAs), also known as the credit bureaus, have a lot of power over whether you can get financing for vehicles, homes, and other credit transactions.  But you may not know how the CRAs get the information for your credit report, or what your credit score really means.  Since consumer credit history, scores, and reports are extremely important in your life, you need to make sure that you understand them and what you can do about them if they are not reporting accurately.

When you apply for credit, the potential lender goes to the three main credit bureaus, (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion), to review your credit report.  There are many other CRAs as well, but these three have emerged as the primary sources of credit reports.  Your credit report contains information about your bill payment history, current loans and debts, and other financial information.  It usually also states your current address and the name of your employer, as well as past addresses and employers.  Finally, a credit report may include whether you’ve been sued in the past or filed for bankruptcy. Negative information about you can stay on your credit report for seven to ten years.

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Ohio Legislature Amended Nonsupport Statute to Negate State v. Pittman

In January 2017, I posted a blog article discussed December 23, 2016, in the case of State v. Pittman, 2014-Ohio-5001, in which the Ohio Supreme Court held that a person could not be criminally prosecuted for failing to make the payments set forth in an arrearage-only order issued after the date of his children’s emancipation.  The reason behind the decision was that the Nonsupport of Dependents statute, RC 2919.21(B), stated: “No person shall abandon, or fail to provide support as established by a court order to, another person whom, by court order or decree, the person is legally obligated to support.”  In determining the intent behind the statute, the Court focused on the word “is” to show the meaning, stating “RC 2919.21(B) is ambiguous.  It criminalizes a person’s failure to support – in the matter established by a court order – another person whom he is legally obligated to support.  Because the statute uses the present tense in the phrase ‘is legally obligated to support,’ a person charged with a violation must be under a current obligation to provide support.”

Thus, based on Pittman, a person who had a minor child and failed to pay a minimum $50 per month child support order and was $1,000 in arrears could be criminal prosecuted, while a person who had an adult child and no current child support order, but was $100,000 in arrears could not be prosecuted.

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Should a Chapter 7 Debtor Reaffirm on a Home Mortgage?

There are two assets that the majority of Debtors filing bankruptcy under Chapter 7 want to keep if they can:  their car and their home.  While they want to wipe out (discharge) their unsecured debts, they are willing to keep paying their car loans and home mortgages.  And the lenders on both are also eager for the Debtors to keep paying them and keep the collateral, so long as the Debtors are current on those loans. Lenders may prepare contracts to re-commit the Debtor to the terms of the original loan agreement and send them to the Debtor’s attorney for signature by both the Debtor and the attorney, and eventual filing with the Bankruptcy Court.  The Court will approve them, so long as continuing to pay is not an “undue hardship” on the Debtor, meaning that there is enough income left over to make those payments after other monthly living expenses are paid.  These contracts are known as “reaffirmation agreements” or, for short, “reaffs”.

The important thing for a Debtor to understand is that entering into a reaff removes this Lender from the protection of the bankruptcy discharge.  If the Debtor cannot continue to make the payments on the car or house, the Lender can not only take back its collateral, but the reaff gives the Lender the right to go after the Debtor personally for any portion of the balance owed that the sale of the collateral doesn’t cover.  Therefore, entering into a reaffirmation agreement actually benefits the Lender more than the Debtor.

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