October 21, 2019

History of Labor Day

Labor Day 2019

On September 2, 2019, the U.S. Department of Labor celebrates and honors the greatest worker in the world – the American worker. Labor Day 2019 is the 125th anniversary of Labor Day being celebrated as a national holiday.

Labor Day: What it Means

Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.

Labor Day Legislation

The first governmental recognition came through municipal ordinances passed in 1885 and 1886. From these, a movement developed to secure state legislation. The first state bill was introduced into the New York legislature, but the first to become law was passed by Oregon on February 21, 1887. During 1887, four more states – Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York – created the Labor Day holiday by legislative enactment. By the end of the decade Connecticut, Nebraska, and Pennsylvania had followed suit. By 1894, 23 more states had adopted the holiday, and on June 28, 1894, Congress passed an act making the first Monday in September of each year a legal holiday in the District of Columbia and the territories.

Founder of Labor Day

More than a century after the first Labor Day observance, there is still some doubt as to who first proposed the holiday for workers.

Some records show that Peter J. McGuire, general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and a co-founder of the American Federation of Labor, was first in suggesting a day to honor those “who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold.”

But Peter McGuire’s place in Labor Day history has not gone unchallenged. Many believe that Matthew Maguire, a machinist, not Peter McGuire, founded the holiday. Recent research seems to support the contention that Matthew Maguire, later the secretary of Local 344 of the International Association of Machinists in Paterson, N.J., proposed the holiday in 1882 while serving as secretary of the Central Labor Union in New York. What is clear is that the Central Labor Union adopted a Labor Day proposal and appointed a committee to plan a demonstration and picnic.

The First Labor Day

The first Labor Day holiday was celebrated on Tuesday, September 5, 1882, in New York City, in accordance with the plans of the Central Labor Union. The Central Labor Union held its second Labor Day holiday just a year later, on September 5, 1883.

By 1894, 23 more states had adopted the holiday, and on June 28, 1894, President Grover Cleveland signed a law making the first Monday in September of each year a national holiday.

A Nationwide Holiday

Women's Auxiliary Typographical Union

The form that the observance and celebration of Labor Day should take was outlined in the first proposal of the holiday — a street parade to exhibit to the public “the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations” of the community, followed by a festival for the recreation and amusement of the workers and their families. This became the pattern for the celebrations of Labor Day. Speeches by prominent men and women were introduced later, as more emphasis was placed upon the economic and civic significance of the holiday. Still later, by a resolution of the American Federation of Labor convention of 1909, the Sunday preceding Labor Day was adopted as Labor Sunday and dedicated to the spiritual and educational aspects of the labor movement.

The character of the Labor Day celebration has changed in recent years, especially in large industrial centers where mass displays and huge parades have proved a problem. This change, however, is more a shift in emphasis and medium of expression. Labor Day addresses by leading union officials, industrialists, educators, clerics, and government officials are given wide coverage in newspapers, radio, and television.

The vital force of labor added materially to the highest standard of living and the greatest production the world has ever known and has brought us closer to the realization of our traditional ideals of economic and political democracy. It is appropriate, therefore, that the nation pays tribute on Labor Day to the creator of so much of the nation’s strength, freedom, and leadership – the American worker.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Labor

We are always here for you. Even on holidays. Contact us any time 24/7/365: CONTACT

The F Word

No.  Not that F Word.

The word I am talking about is Forgiveness.

In particular, Debt Forgiveness.

Let go...or be dragged. -Zen Proverb

Let go…or be dragged.
-Zen Proverb

This can be achieved through Bankruptcy or Bankruptcy Alternatives.

I talk a lot about Bankruptcy, but it’s not for everyone.

So, what are the alternatives? Here are the top three:

  • Repayment with Workouts

(aka Debt Negotiation)

  • Debt Management with Strict Budgeting

(read our budgeting blog here)

  • Claims under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act

Don’t let your debt drag you down.

Let it go.

For more information, contact me here.

Sincerely,

Theresa Rose DeGray

Attorney at Law

PS: Debt Forgiveness may result in tax consequences; whereas Bankruptcy does not.

SCRA: Servicemembers’ Civil Relief Act

The Servicemembers’ Civil Relief Act applies in bankruptcy cases. It provides protection to members of the military against the entry of default judgments and gives the court the ability to stay proceedings against military debtors.

Background

The Servicemembers’ Civil Relief Act (“SCRA”) is found at 50 U.S.C. app. §§ 501 et seq. The purpose of the SCRA is strengthen and expedite national defense by giving servicemembers certain protections in civil actions. By providing for the temporary suspension of judicial and administrative proceedings and transactions that may adversely affect servicemembers during their military service, the SCRA enables servicemembers to focus their energy on the defense of the United States. Among other things, the SCRA allows for forbearance and reduced interest on certain obligations incurred prior to military service, and it restricts default judgments against servicemembers and rental evictions of servicemembers and all their dependents. The SCRA applies to all members of the United States military on active duty, and to U.S. citizens serving in the military of United States allies in the prosecution of a war or military action. The provisions of the SCRA generally end when a servicemember is discharged from active duty or within 90 days of discharge, or when the servicemember dies. Portions of the SCRA also apply to reservists and inductees who have received orders but not yet reported to active duty or induction into the military service.

General Provisions

There are three primary areas of coverage under the SCRA: (1) protection against the entry of default judgments; (2) stay of proceedings where the servicemember has notice of the proceeding; and (3) stay or vacation of execution of judgments, attachments and garnishments. 50 U.S.C. app. §§ 521, 522 and 524.

Protection Against Default Judgements

Section 521 of the SCRA establishes certain procedures that must be followed in all civil proceedings in order to protect servicemember defendants against the entry of default judgements. These procedures are outlined below:

  • If a defendant is in default for failure to appear in the action filed by the plaintiff, the plaintiff must file an affidavit (1) with the court before a default judgment may be entered. The affidavit must state whether the defendant is in the military, or that the plaintiff was unable to determine whether the defendant is in the military.
  • If, based on the filed affidavits, the court cannot determine whether the defendant is in the military, it may condition entry of judgment against the defendant upon the plaintiff’s filing of a bond. The bond would indemnify the defendant against any loss or damage incurred because of the judgment if the judgment is later set aside in whole or in part.
  • The court may not order entry of judgment against the defendant if the defendant is in the military until after the court appoints an attorney to represent the defendant.
  • If requested by counsel for a servicemember defendant, or upon the court’s own motion, the court will grant a stay of proceedings for no less than 90 days if it determines that (1) there may be a defense and the defense cannot be presented without the defendant’s presence; or (2) after due diligence the defendant’s attorney has not been able to contact the defendant or otherwise determine if a meritorious defense exists.
  • The court may, in its discretion, make further orders or enter further judgments to protect the rights of the defendant under the SCRA.
  • If a judgment is entered against the defendant while he or she is in military service or within 60 days of discharge from military service, and the defendant was prejudiced in making his or her defense because of his or her military service, the judgment may, upon application by the defendant, be opened by the court and the defendant may then provide a defense. Before the judgment may be opened, however, the defendant must show that he or she has a meritorious or legal defense to some or all of the action.

    Stay of Proceedings Where Servicemember Has Notice

    Outside the default context, and at any time before final judgement in a civil action, a person covered by the SCRA who has received notice of a proceeding may ask the court to stay the proceeding. 50 U.S.C. app. § 522. The court may also order a stay on its own motion. Id. The court will grant the servicemember’s stay application and will stay the proceeding for at least 90 days if the application includes: (1) a letter or other communication setting forth facts demonstrating that the individual’s current military duty requirements materially affect the servicemember’s ability to appear along with a date when the servicemember will be able to appear; and (2) a letter or other communication from the servicemember’s commanding officer stating that the servicemember’s current military duty prevents his or her appearance and that military leave is not authorized for the servicemember at the time of the letter. The court has discretion to grant additional stays upon further application.

    Stay or Vacation of Execution of Judgements, Attachments and Garnishments

    In addition to the court’s ability to regulate default judgments and stay proceedings, the court may on its own motion and must upon application: (1) stay the execution of any judgment or order entered against a servicemember; and (2) vacate or stay any attachment or garnishment of the servicemember’s property or assets, whether before or after judgment if it finds that the servicemember’s ability to comply with the judgment or garnishment is materially affected by military service. 50 U.S.C. app. § 524. The stay of execution may be ordered for any part of the servicemember’s military service plus 90 days after discharge from the service. The court may also order the servicemember to make installment payments during any stay ordered.

    Additional Protections

    Several additional rights are available under the SCRA. For example, when an action for compliance with a contract is stayed under the SCRA, contractual penalties do not accrue during the period of the stay. 50 U.S.C. app. § 523. The SCRA also provides in most instances that a landlord cannot evict a servicemember or dependants from a primary residence without a court order. In an eviction proceeding, the court may also adjust the lease obligations to protect the interests of the parties. 50 U.S.C. app. § 531. If the court stay the eviction proceeding, it may provide equitable relief to the landlord by ordering garnishment of a portion of the servicemember’s pay. Id. Under the SCRA a servicemember may terminate residential and automotive leases if he or she is transferred after the lease is made. 50 U.S.C. app. § 535. A court may also extend some of the protections afforded a servicemember under the SCRA to persons co-liable or secondarily liable on the servicemember’s obligation. 50 U.S.C. app. § 513.

Applicability to Bankruptcy Proceedings

The language of the SCRA states that it is generally applicable in any action or proceeding commenced in any court. 50 U.S.C. app. §§ 521, 522 and 524. Therefore, absent contravening language with respect to bankruptcy proceedings, the SCRA applies to all actions or proceedings before a bankruptcy court.

The applicability of the SCRA in bankruptcy proceedings is also evident in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure. For example, the advisory committee note to Federal Rule for default judgments, Fed. R. Civ. P. 55(b), states that it is directly affected by the SCRA. (2) Under Fed. R. Bankr. P. 7055 and 9014 of the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure, Fed. R. Civ. P. 55 is applicable in bankruptcy adversary proceedings and contested matters. Thus, the default judgment protections of the SCRA clearly apply in bankruptcy cases.

The bankruptcy court clerk’s office is aware of the requirement that the plaintiff must provide an affidavit stating whether the defendant is in the military before default may be entered against the defendant. Bankruptcy Procedural Forms B260, B261A, and B261B, and their accompanying instructions, provide additional guidance concerning the applicability of the SCRA to default judgments and related procedural requirements.

SOURCE: SCRA. Servicemembers’ Civil Relief, Federal Courts Bankruptcy Basics Page

FAQs About Reverse Mortgages

If you are over the age of 62 and planning on staying in your own home, a Reverse Mortgage may be for you, and you will want to read this eNewsletter very carefully because recently the Reverse Mortgage Laws have changed. Due to those changes, I sat down with an experienced Reverse Mortgage Consultant to get the latest and most important information for my clients.

Here are the highlights from our conversation:

Q: What is a Reverse Mortgage?

A: A Reverse Mortgage is a home loan that provides cash payments based on home equity; homeowners normally defer the payment of the loan until they pass away, sell or move out of the home.

Q: What are the big changes?

A: The government-insured reverse mortgage program is changing, with the introduction of a few new rules and more protection for borrowers. The changes are designed to create and even safer product or borrowers than has ever been available before. There are still plenty of product options that will allow you to access the equity in your home, while you continue to live there, with no monthly mortgage payments.

Q: What are the Payment options available?

A: With a reverse mortgage, you can still choose between a fixed-rate loan or an adjustable-rate loan. And you can receive the funds in a number of ways: as a lump sum, monthly advances, line of credit, or a combination of these options. There are new limits to the amount of money that can be taken out at the time of the loan closing and within the first 12 months of the loan, which will depend on each individual’s situation. Please contact a Reverse Mortgage Consultant to learn more as to how the restrictions may apply.

Q: How can the funds be used?

A: Reverse Mortgage funds can still be used however you see fit. In order to qualify, you must own your home outright, or have enough home equity that you can pay off your remaining mortgage balance with the loan proceeds. The Reverse Mortgage still allows you to eliminate monthly mortgage payments while remaining in your home. For example, some borrowers choose the line of credit option, keeping it available for any unexpected costs they might have in the future, such as medical expenses or in-home care. The credit line can also be used as a “standby” cash reserve that can be borrowed from when investments are underperforming. Others opt for a lump sum to pay their existing mortgage or other debts, to improve cash flow. Monthly advances can be used to supplement existing income, providing a steady stream of funds for a specified period or as long as you live in your home.

Q: What are the qualifications?

A: Currently, there are minimal credit or income requirements to qualify for a reverse mortgage.  However, there will be additional changes to the program, including a financial assessment of all applicants’ credit history, existing debt and income sources. These changes will impact some borrowers’ ability to qualify, so we encourage you to speak with us soon- before the changes go into effect. Your Reverse Mortgage Consultant can help determine whether you will qualify for a reverse mortgage, how much you can borrow, the costs involved and how the forthcoming financial assessment may affect your ability to qualify or how much you may receive.

If this information does not pertain to you, I am sure you know someone that it will help, like your parents or your friends. Please pass it along.

Bankruptcy and Retirement

Here you are in your golden years and you’re also in overwhelming debt.  The question now becomes “what should you do?” If you have retirement savings, you can use that to pay down debt, but then you won’t have anything left to live on.  Or, a smarter choice, would be to keep your retirement savings, protect your pension(s) and/or retirement account(s), and declare Bankruptcy.  This is also a very wise decision if you do not have retirement savings or pensions and you are counting on social security benefits only to support yourself and your family.

Some people are under the misconception that when they reach retirement age, they become what is known as “judgment proof.”  On one hand this is correct and on another hand it is false.  Creditors can still sue you for delinquent accounts and secure judgments against you even if you are over 62 and/or retired.  If you are sued and lose, and then you fail to pay the court-ordered judgment amounts then the creditors can serve you with executions of the judgment and they can sweep your bank accounts.  You will then have the right to request the court to “exempt” the funds if they were derived from social security, pension or retirement funds, and eventually have the funds returned to your account.  Creditors cannot get attachments on your benefits from social security, pension or retirement accounts, but they can put liens on your property.  Therefore, you are not fully protected or “judgment proof” just because you are retired and no longer have “wages.”

The alternative to this dilemma is Chapter 7 Bankruptcy.  If you are living on pension funds and/or social security benefits, you will likely qualify easily for Bankruptcy, and your social security benefits, pensions and retirement accounts will be totally exempt in the Bankruptcy process.  Ultimately, Bankruptcy will give you a “discharge” of your debts and you will be relieved of your obligation to pay your creditors.

Bankruptcy can also help you with delinquent or unpaid utilities, and foreclosures, as well.

Filing Bankruptcy in your golden years can help you wipe the slate clean so you can enjoy your retirement and have peace of mind.

Please contact Attorney Theresa Rose DeGray for more detailed information and a free consultation to discuss your specific situation at 203-713-8877.

This is no April Fools’ Joke: Means Test Numbers are Going Up as of April 1, 2019!

After your initial consultation, I will analyze your financial circumstances and perform your Means Test. A Means Test is an assessment used to determine if you qualify to file a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy.

Before 2005 it was easy to file for bankruptcy; virtually anyone could do so. In 2005 Congress enacted the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act (BAPCPA)1 and added the Means Test requirement to prevent abuse of the Bankruptcy process. Simply put if you “pass” the means test, you are a qualified candidate and can file a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Petition. If you “fail” the means Test, you may not file a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy but you may enjoy other alternatives such as a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy.

The Means Test primarily encompasses a two-step analysis:

STEP ONE: Your (the “debtor’s”) gross income is calculated on an average over a six month period prior to filing for Bankruptcy. Gross income for means testing purposes includes wages, salary, tips, bonuses, overtime and commissions. It does not include social security benefits. The figure derived from taking the average is than considered the Debtor’s Current Monthly Income which is then compared to the median income for your state and household size. If your current monthly income is less than the median income for your state and household size, than you “pass” the means test and are allowed to file a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Petition. If, however, your current monthly income is greater than the median income for your state and household size, you may proceed to Step Two.

STEP TWO: If your current monthly income is greater than the median income for your state and household size, there is, in technical terms, a “presumption of abuse.”2 In order to rebut the presumption, or in other terms, to pass the means test by using the second step, the means test’s second section allows you to subtract from your current monthly income certain allowable and deductible expenses.3 These allowed deductions include, but are not limited to, expenses for living (mortgages and property taxes), transportation (car loans and car taxes), health insurance and charitable donations. After the calculations are performed, and the allowable deductions are taken, and if you then have no disposable monthly income available, you will then have passed the Means Test and may file a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy. If, on the other hand, you do have remaining disposable income, you may consider a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy.

The discussion above is an overview of the Means Test in basic terms and is in no way intended as a specific analysis of your personal financial circumstances.

For an analysis of your own financial circumstances, please contact Attorney Theresa Rose DeGray, to schedule your free consultation today!

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1See: 11 U.S.C. § 707(b)

2See: 11 U.S.C. § 707(b)(2) and 11 U.S.C. § 707(b)(3)

3See: 11 U.S.C. § 707(b)(2)(A)

GOOD NEWS: Updated Census Bureau Median Family Income Data

March 14, 2019

The Census Bureau’s Median Family Income Data accessible through the “Means Testing Information” page has been updated. The U.S. Trustee Program will apply the updated data to all cases filed on or after April 1, 2019.

SOURCE: https://www.justice.gov/ust

BANKRUPTCY COURT OPEN DURING PARTIAL GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN

Tax Amnesty

A Guest Blog by Joshua M. Dickinson, CPA

Now is the perfect time to come clean and catch-up on your outstanding tax obligations. Connecticut has introduced “CT Fresh Start” which is a Connecticut tax amnesty program which runs through November 30, 2018. Almost all tax types are eligible under the program including both business and individual income taxes, payroll withholding taxes, business entity taxes, gift taxes, and sales & use taxes. A taxpayer is eligible if they failed to file a return, or failed to report the full amount of tax on a previously filed return, for any return due on or before December 31, 2016. The program is generally not available for taxpayers who have already received a bill for unpaid taxes or are currently under audit by the Connecticut Department of Revenue Services. The benefits include no assessed penalties on the outstanding obligation as well as interest at 50% of the normal rate. The program also allows for a limited look-back period for eligible non-filers of only three years and no criminal prosecution. Connecticut has not offered a tax amnesty program in quite a few years and the window to apply under the program is relatively short, so don’t miss out! To see if you can take advantage, please contact Joshua M. Dickinson, CPA of Walsh & Dickinson at 203-447-0550 immediately.

Special thanks to my colleague, Joshua M. Dickinson, CPA (pictured here on the right with me and Attorney Karen Zarkades on the left), for submitting this article to my newsletter and blog. He is a partner at Walsh & Dickinson, a full-service CPA firm operating out of Shelton, Connecticut, specializes in the needs of small to medium size privately held business and individual clients. Josh has over 22 years of diverse experience helping clients located throughout Connecticut. Please contact Josh at Walsh & Dickinson at 203-447-0550 or www.cpaswd.com. Thank you.

EVERYONE NEEDS A WILL!

If you are over the age of 18, you need an “Estate Plan,” especially if you have children.

A basic estate plan consists of three documents:

  1. A “Power of Attorney,” which appoints someone you choose who will have the power to do things on your behalf such as banking, real estate and other transactions if you are unable to do them yourself; please note that the only “power” this documents does not include, is the power to make health care decisions;
  2. A “Living Will,” which does two main things: appoints a health care agent (or someone to make your health care decisions) and designates organ donation; and
  3. A “Last Will and Testament.” This document only operates upon your death and it has two or three main functions, depending on your circumstances. First, it designates an “executor” to administer your estate in the Probate Court. Secondly, it directs your executor how to distribute your possessions. And lastly, if you have minor children, it appoints a guardian for your children to make sure they are taken care of by someone you trust instead of someone you don’t want to care for your children, like the state/DCF.

 

Contact Attorney Theresa Rose DeGray to discuss your personal Estate Plan today!

 

This firm is a debt relief agency. We help people file for bankruptcy relief amongst other things, under the Bankruptcy Code.