Category Archives: COVID-19

Dallas Area Attorney Takes the Stigma Out of Bankruptcy

By Stacey Doud, M.A.

With so many individuals, families and businesses feeling the crunch of the COVID pandemic, many are looking at bankruptcy as an option just to stay afloat in this economy. “Bankruptcy” has become a word that can cause shame and embarrassment in today’s society, but it can actually be a palpable, and even a favorable, option.

quote-thumbDallas resident and attorney Reed Allmand is Board-Certified in Consumer Bankruptcy and has been in this field for the last 20 years. This unique time in history has society confused, unemployed and, most likely, broke. Filing for bankruptcy is just one of several ways of dealing with overwhelming debt.

“We see people all over the Metroplex. We mainly work with individuals who are going to be filing for bankruptcy, but we also help small businesses as well,” Allmand said.

“For Chapter 11s, we are able to recognize when bankruptcy is appropriate and I have referral networks where I send those 11s because they’re a different animal, as far as a business model to service them. One big Chapter 11 can keep a law firm busy for months, said Allmand.

“About a year ago, we developed a portal on our website, so since [COVID] happened in March, we were able to have people just go to our website and log on through that portal, where we can videoconference with them, exchange documents securely and file bankruptcy schedules using electronic signatures. So, we’ve been able to file cases for people without them ever leaving their homes.

“Some other jurisdictions across the U.S. had the judges to sign this order, so I wrote a letter to our judges and said, ‘I met this lady with COVID who can’t leave her house. Her car is about to be repossessed, so we need her to ‘DocuSign’ her petition so we can get this going. A couple of days later, several other jurisdictions jumped on board, and so we were able to take care of this matter with no outside risk to the client,” Allmand explained.

According to Allmand, bankruptcy filings are slightly down overall, but bankruptcy consultations and bankruptcy questions are going up. “Sometimes, when you’re in the middle of an emergency, a lot of times people will do the bankruptcy to kind of clean up the aftermath. If they lost their job and they are on unemployment, those extra benefits kind of helped people to stay afloat. But all of that is coming to an end in July.

“July is going to be the perfect storm because you have the CARES Act Eviction Moratorium expiring on July 25 so they can give the 30-day notice. At the end of the month is when the extra $600 per month ends. Even the Dallas Moratorium has expired. You’d usually see 700 to 1,000 people in Dallas County up for eviction per week, but it’s been hardly anything these last couple of months. There’s a groundswell building up and when it’s released, it’s going to be big.

“Many people are already taking advantage of the Mortgage Forbearance Program. And then you have the CARES Act, which I think that around 75% of mortgages fall under. These programs are supposed to get with the borrower so they can set up a payment plan, which may or may not happen.

“From my experience, it just seems like people are shocked and ashamed. They don’t want to even talk about bankruptcy, so they do everything in their power to avoid it. They liquidate their retirement accounts. This is sad, because you have those funds there for your retirement, but if you had talked to me, I could file the bankruptcy case and the retirement accounts won’t be lost.

“The equity in your house is protected, so you go get a home equity loan and pay off credit cards. When they can’t pay back the loan, the bank takes their house. That’s what I am trying to get across to people,” Allmand warned.

“Most people call me when the repo man is looking for the car and it’s in foreclosure or they’re getting sued and somebody is garnishing their wages. However, in Texas, judgement creditors can’t garnish your wages. Only the IRS or the Attorney General can do that. But if we file a bankruptcy case, all of those entities have to stop all garnishment of wages. These actions acknowledge an individual’s power, and people need to get to get the information they need so they can make informed decisions.

“I’ve dealt with people in all kinds of situations. I’ve had a suicidal person come in. This gentleman was up for foreclosure and had gotten my letter in the mail. He came in and he was really quiet. I talked to him, going over what his options were and then put a plan together for him. He started crying and said, ‘I’m so glad I called you. I was sitting in my car thinking that I’m just going to kill myself.’

“What kind of pressure is that? It really brought home just how on the edge people are getting. Medical expenses are the number one reason for filing, along with job loss and divorce. And, while some folks don‘t have cable or WIFI, they usually have a phone. But that may go on and off, depending on where they are with their bill. I had a client named Michele a few years back. Her husband had just lost his job, along with their medical insurance. Her son had diabetes. His insulin alone cost over $2,000 per month. So yes, these folks are hitting hard times. It can happen to anyone.

“We know that basically, people want to pay these debts. They don’t like owing money. More people file bankruptcy in the wake of divorce or cancer or whatever, and it’s a call already included in risk-assessment. When it is the best choice, there’s no need to put off filing bankruptcy because there’s really no shame in it. It’s not like people are going to be put in debtor’s prison forever. It’s actually getting people back into society with a fresh start quicker.

“It’s true that filing bankruptcy will affect your credit score, but the score is based on other factors that, after filing, the score easily goes up. We subscribe to a service called Credit Experts, and we pull from them the current score, and it gives us the predicted score after one year, which is usually one year after filing, and we’ve found that if the client does all the things they need to do, the credit score is between 50-100 points higher than it was when they first filed. Bankruptcy does not ‘erase’ your credit report, but it takes all of the derogatories and negative things and replaces them with ‘Discharged in Bankruptcy on X day.’

“Typically, the way you get that score to skyrocket after bankruptcy is to get a secured [credit] card, maybe reaffirm on your vehicle and keep making the payments and your mortgage and things. It’s kind of like when you first started with no credit history.

“A lot of our clients file for bankruptcy [Chapter 7], and then turn around the next day and qualify to purchase a car. This is because they are often able to get a better car deal after they’ve turned in the old one and wiped out all of the debt because the car lender knows that [the individual] can’t file another Chapter 7 for another eight years and all their other debt is wiped out, and that car will never be discharged and that loan will never be discharged because they’re going to make you pay it off in five [years].

“When a client comes to the office, they are immediately put into our educational program called, ‘Seven Steps to 720 [credit score],’ which is a credit education course. In this, we are looking at any loans that are going to carry through the bankruptcy, and we give them our advice about whether or not to keep those loans. Then, they are set up on a budget to know how they are going to go forward. Most of the time, they’ve gotten familiar with living on a cash basis.

“Most people just want to know how much the payment is going to be per month. They’re not thinking about the interest they have to pay or if the car breaks down and things like that. Even if they’re being responsible, people just live up to their income. They’re not going over, and whatever debt they get, they can afford to pay. But if they lose a job, if COVID happens, if they get laid off, they have zero safety net.

“It’s very humbling when you do this job to see that it can happen to anybody. I put savings aside, but if lost my source of income for a year, I’m going to be in trouble, too.

“There’s a perception in society that the people who are in these situations brought it on themselves. I may tell someone what I do, and they say things like, ‘I hope I never have to come see you,’ and ‘How can they afford you if they’re so broke? They must be going on trips and using up their credit cards.’ But there are so many reasons not to be so judgmental. You see the pain in someone’s eyes and all the things that they have tried to avoid [bankruptcy], often putting it off way too long.

“A pro bono client, who was legally blind, was in my office filing for bankruptcy a few months back. She had three car repossessions. I asked her about that, and she said that her abusive ex-husband shot her point-blank in the head, which made her go blind. Then he signed for all of the cars in her name. Then they got repossessed. That’s an extreme case, but it goes to show you that you can’t judge a book by its cover.

“The hardest cases for me to take on are the elderly people that have a child or other family member/caregiver taking advantage of them. These people sometimes work two or three jobs just to make ends meet while the child or ‘caregiver’ is off spending all of the money.

“I do a lot of pro bono cases through the Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program (DVAP). I grew up in Abilene and went to Abilene Christian University, and I feel really blessed with what I do for a living. It feels like it’s my mission in life,” Allmand concluded.

If you or someone you know could benefit from Allmand’s advice and programs, call for a FREE consultation at (214) 884-4020 or visit AllmandLaw.com.

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A Message from Grapevine Mayor William D. Tate

Dear Friends,

108950414_10164233766805268_8008274536047627185_nThese times are trying the souls of all humankind. We are dealing with an unknown enemy that is threatening our health, our economy, and our way of life. Our knowledge of ways to defeat this virus is limited. Short of a cure or a vaccine, which now is beyond our reach, we must come together. Many projections have been incorrect and the data has been inconsistent. People are not sure what to do and do not know what to believe. However, it is clear that we are all in this together and we need every citizen to join our army to defeat it. The medical community nor public officials cannot defeat it alone. You are the best weapon that we now have.

Efforts across Texas must be unified, so we depend on County and State orders to ensure all Texans are working together in combatting this disease. We have been ordered by the Governor and the Tarrant County Judge to practice social distancing, to wear a mask when out in public, to use good hygiene, and stay at home as much as possible. I realize people are tired of staying home and many do not want to wear a mask, especially in this Texas summer heat.

I have heard the arguments made by those against wearing a mask and I believe they all pale compared to the devastating consequences we will all suffer if we do not comply. Additionally, I have seen much of the scientific evidence, which has convinced me that masks do effectively reduce the community spread of COVID-19. The requirement to wear a mask is only temporary, so to comply does not give up any civil rights in my opinion.

It remains unknown which of us will get the disease and which of us will die from it. Therefore, we need to protect ourselves and those we love. If you feel invincible to the virus and feel you do not need to wear a mask, then I ask you to do so for the following reasons:

  • Do it for the elderly and those who have underlying health conditions whose lives are most at risk.
  • Do it for the medical personnel that have treated the sick until they are exhausted.
  • Do it for the teachers who soon will be at risk and have to work twice as hard to teach in the classroom and online.
  • Do it for the schoolchildren so they will have a chance to get back in the classroom this fall.
  • Do it for those who have lost their jobs and are unemployed, to give them a chance to get back to work and support their families.
  • Do it for the millions of Americans in danger of their homes being foreclosed on in the next few months.
  • Do it so you can look back when this period is behind us and feel proud that you did your part in defeating COVID-19.
  • Do it to set a good example.

If for no other reason, do it because it is the polite thing to do.

Not wearing a face-covering could result in civil penalties. However, even more harmful would be for our economy to be shut down again. We cannot afford this alternative, so I ask that everyone voluntarily comply.

I appreciate the majority of our citizens who have already joined the fight and are doing everything they can to conquer this virus. Please encourage others to do the same.

Be blessed and stay encouraged, Grapevine.

Mayor William D. Tate

Editor’s Corner – World Weary and Confused: The Crazy Times We Live In

Well, crap. Just when the “ordinary world” was emerging again, my county (Tarrant) has made it (basically) a law that people who go into any business must wear face masks.

Of course, it’s up to the store owners/managers to ask patrons to leave if they don’t have protection, but from what I have seen, most folks have been cognizant about the state order and have complied, whether it be a bandana or a cute Pikachu face mask. And I have also seen some pretty offensive masks. We can’t leave out the rebels! Fortunately, most of their messages are directed toward the virus, as in, “F*ck COVID.” But I have also seen political messages on some masks that make me sigh with exhaustion.

Where do these people get their energy to keep this constant stream of hate going? Whether it’s COVID or race relations, people have to be tired. I volunteer for the local NAACP and they are saying, “We are just tired.” So am I.

I call it, “world weary.” Even keeping my parameters (no voluntarily watched TV news) has lost its luster; it seems that I’ll hear about news one way or another, whether I want to or not. Yes, I am depressed.

I do have a couple of college degrees in psychology, but it’s rather hard to diagnose or help yourself. We are too close to our thoughts, feelings, biases, etc. to point out to ourselves what the heck is up. The best giveaway for me personally is isolating myself, not doing anything I used to like to do and sleeping a lot, as an escape. No, it’s NOT my first rodeo. I experienced suicidal depression after the birth of my daughter (postpartum depression). Obviously, I didn’t carry out my plan (or did I? I could be a ghost writer! Haha…total Dad joke).

With basically zero income right now, getting constant calls from, “I’m determined to get blood from you, Turnip,” and a depressed spouse, I’m not surprised I’ve gotten back into that black pit o’ depression.

Confusion also adds to these feelings. Who to believe? Expert X is saying one thing and Expert Y is saying another. I hate to disrespect our Federal Government, but….WHAAAAAT? One thing on Monday morning, the opposite on Monday night. I wish people would quit lying (or twisting the truth) to us. I feel like Austin Powers in that scene where he gets stuck in a golf cart, trying to turn around in a narrow hallway. Bump, bump, bump.

It IS in my control as to how long I stay down here in the pit.. Hopefully, I will start to feel more balanced soon, after walking the local track every day, eating healthier, blah, blah. I don’t feel like doing any of it. And I can’t help but wonder if there is more to the story that the general public is not privy to. I just read that 90-something percent of the COVID tests are giving false positives. But is that true? And if it IS true, what does that mean for the general population?

How are you feeling about this stage of the pandemic? What are your coping mechanisms?

Face Masks To Be Required in Tarrant County Businesses Beginning Friday

61M4dTyfhHL._AC_SX425_Face coverings will be required in all Tarrant County businesses, the county judge announced Thursday, mirroring measures taken across the state amid a “massive” spike in COVID-19 infections.

Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley said the countywide executive order will go into effect at 6 p.m. Friday. The order will be in effect through 6 a.m. Aug. 3 and also applies to outdoor gatherings of 100 people or more.

Read the Executive Order in its entirety HERE.

Read more and see videos at NBCDFW…

[Editor’s Note: Yes, it’s basically a law for all citizens and store owners in Tarrant County to wear masks in public. Businesses have been encouraged to refuse service to patrons who are not wearing face protection.]

Tarrant County COVID Testing Information

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If you are interested in scheduling a COVID-19 (Coronavirus) test in your area, please provide your zip code to ensure you’re in the serviced area then click “Get Started” to begin the screening process. This screening tool is intended for persons 18 years of age or older. For questions about getting your child tested, please contact their medical provider.

Please visit CovidTesting.TarrantCounty.com for additional information

Self-Screening for COVID-19

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This screening tool is intended for persons 18 years of age or older. For questions about getting your child tested, please contact your medical provider.

CLICK HERE TO PROCEED –> https://covidtesting.tarrantcounty.com/

You will receive an eligibility determination and instructions for testing based on your responses, testing availability and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines. We know that this can be an uncertain time for you and your loved ones and appreciate you taking the time to take care of your health.

Because COVID-19 is new, we are learning new things every day. You should stay informed by visiting cdc.gov or coronavirus.tarrantcounty.com. Remember, not all the information you may hear from other people or on the internet is true and you should call your physician or the Tarrant county hotline at 817-248-6299 with any questions.

You will not be charged for this test. Please have your insurance card ready. In order to provide testing to as many people as possible, the lab company will try to bill your insurance to help offset the cost of the test. 

Regardless, if your insurance doesn’t pay or you don’t have insurance you will not be charged. Having insurance is not used in determining eligibility for testing. If you are having problems with the self-screening tool, please call our hotline number at 817-248-6299 and someone will assist you in filling in the form.

88% of Americans now using face masks, 29% Say They May Never be Comfortable Shopping in Stores Again

BY 

My-Post-156A new nationwide survey from Fast shows that the vast majority of Americans – 88% – are now using face masks, but 19% want to personally receive a COVID-19 vaccine before they feel safe shopping in stores again, while another 29% say they may never be comfortable buying in person again.

Even as additional businesses are starting to reopen around the country, Fast’s survey found that 22% of Americans are shopping more online specifically to avoid wearing face masks in stores. Additional mask usage habits include:

  • 58% wear masks in stores
  • 51% wear them in crowds where they can’t maintain 6-foot social distancing
  • 41% wear masks when required by a business or government
  • 35% wear them every time they go outside
  • 24% wear masks at work
  • 10% never wear a mask

Read more from Texas News Today…

Navy’s Blue Angels will fly over North Texas Wednesday in salute to COVID-19 responders

By 

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A formation of jets from the Navy’s Blue Angels, left, and the Air Force’s Thunderbirds fly over Atlanta, to show support for medical workers fighting the coronavirus outbreak, Saturday, May 2, 2020. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

The U.S. military’s elite squadrons of trick flyers will buzz across North Texas skies Wednesday as part of a nationwide salute to doctors, nurses, first responders and other essential workers on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels will fly over the Dallas and Fort Worth areas Wednesday morning, according to the demonstration squadron’s Twitter channel. The demonstrations are part of the “America Strong” tour that flew over Washington, D.C., Baltimore and Atlanta on Saturday.

On Wednesday, the Blue Angels and the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds are set for demonstrations over Houston and New Orleans as well. There are plans to fly over other major cities in the U.S. in the coming weeks, but dates have not been announced.

Read more from The Dallas Morning News…

RESTAURANT OWNERS SPLIT ON DECISION TO RE-OPEN, DAYS AFTER NEW ORDER FROM GOV. GREG ABBOTT

Author: Alex Rozier (WFAA)

It has been an unprecedented few weeks in the restaurant industry, and this week many in Texas re-opened, after receiving the go-ahead from Gov. Greg Abbott to open at 25% capacity. 

Throughout DFW some restaurants chose to re-open while others are going to wait until a later day.

Tim Love owns nine establishments in North Texas. He put together an extensive 15-page playbook as he works to keep his team and customers safe.

Read more from WFAA…

The City of Fort Worth will host the Battelle Critical Care Decontamination System (CCDS)

Screen Shot 2020-04-29 at 11.29.18 AMThe City of Fort Worth in conjunction with Battelle Memorial Institute, Department of State Health Services (DSHS) and the North Central Texas Trauma Regional Advisory Council (NCTTRAC) will begin accepting N95 filtration masks that have been used by First Responders or Health Care Professionals. Each mask will be inspected and complete a through decontamination process up to twenty times enhancing the life expectancy of this protective equipment important in the fight against Covid-19.

In order to allow current personal protective equipment (PPE) inventories to continue to stay above minimum numbers the FDA has approved Battelle to decontaminate N95 masks that are routinely considerable disposable. The site in Fort Worth will eventually be able to process up to 80,000 masks every 24 hours. The Battelle/Fort Worth site will serve as a regional hub and serve Texans from the Panhandle to the Piney Woods.

Health Care Organizations and First Responder Agencies will need to register with Battelle to receive information. “We are pleased to partner with a highly recognized organization such as Battelle to help coordinate this process of prolonging our PPE” said Ft. Worth Fire Chief James Davis. “It will allow Fort Worth to help our regional healthcare partners while continuing to provide care and maintain our inventory of N95 masks”.

For further information about Battelle and their process please visit their website at https://www.battelle.org.