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CARES Act Expands Bankruptcy Options for Individuals and Small Businesses (1)

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act provides a $2 trillion economic stimulus for US companies and citizens faced with the challenges of the COVID-19 coronavirus. The CARES Act also significantly expands existing bankruptcy options for small businesses by temporarily increasing certain debt limits set forth in the recently effective Small Business Reorganization Act of 2019 (SBRA).

Small Business Reorganization Act of 2019 (SBRA)

In August of 2019, President Trump signed into law the Small Business Reorganization Act of 2019 (SBRA) – a piece of legislation that gave small businesses a variety of benefits when filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.  Effective February 22, 2020, the SBRA offers small businesses with aggregate liabilities that do not exceed $2,725,625 the opportunity to resolve their outstanding debts and financial obligations through a more price-conscious and streamlined Chapter 11 process under a new subchapter V component of the Bankruptcy Code. In an attempt to minimize business liquidations, the SBRA will allow business owners to retain the equity in their business, while simultaneously providing more guidance and structure throughout the reorganization process at an affordable cost.  

The SBRA’s key provisions include: 

Simplifying the Process

Debtors now have 90 days to file their reorganization plan from the day in which they file their bankruptcy petition, with easier rules for extending their payment plans. The SBRA will also incorporate more lenient reorganization requirements. Aside from maintaining that all plans are “fair and equitable,” businesses now have two primary ways to repay their creditors: (1) the business, through its restructuring plan, will identify any “disposable income” (income not used to pay for a business’s necessary expenses) and how it plans on distributing this income to its creditors; or (2) the plan will lay out an outline of how a company intends on distributing some or all of its property, provided that it can demonstrate that such property “is not less” than the projected disposable income that would be paid to its creditors. In exchange for complying with one of these two plans, the SBRA permits business owners to maintain possession of their company.  

Extending the Payment Schedule & Debt Dismissal 

A small business’ debts are no longer required to be paid in full. Under the SBRA, business owners can now create a repayment schedule that can span anywhere from 3 to 5 years. By adhering to this payment schedule, business owners are permitted to maintain ownership of their companies. After complying with this 3- to 5-year creditor repayment plan, courts are required to discharge any remaining debt owed by the small business. 

Standing Trustee Appointment 

Similar to Chapter 13 personal bankruptcy filings, the SBRA establishes that once a small business files under the SBRA, a “standing trustee” will be appointed to oversee the case. Throughout the plan of reorganization payment period, the standing trustee will oversee the small business’ estate, which includes general business operations, reviewing the company’s financial condition, or possibly, reporting any fraud or misconduct to the court. The goal under the SBRA is that by appointing a standing trustee, small businesses will have an additional resource in ensuring that adherence to their reorganization plans. In addition, unless the court orders otherwise, no unsecured creditors’ committees are permitted to be appointed or otherwise oversee the case.

Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act provisions related to expanding bankruptcy options for small businesses

Under the CARES Act enacted March 27, 2020, the debt limit under the SBRA for small businesses filing under the new subchapter V of chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code increases from $2,725,625 to $7.5M for a period of 1 year only. The debt limit would then decrease back to $2,725,625 after the one-year increase. For small businesses in financial distress with debts between this range ($2,725,625 - $7,500,000), a time-sensitive evaluation of bankruptcy options should be considered prior to the expiration of the expanded debt limit in March,2021.

The CARES Act also extends benefits to individuals in a bankruptcy. For individuals in a chapter 13 bankruptcy case that have a material financial hardship due to the coronavirus, bankruptcy plans can be expanded for up to 7 years. Further, the coronavirus financial assistance funds shall not be considered “income” for bankruptcy purposes.

For more information about the changes to the bankruptcy laws, please contact Michael Steel at (330) 374-7471 or masteel@bmdllc.com.

Lessons Learned: Five Tips for Buying or Selling a Practice

If you are anticipating buying or selling a practice during the coming months, you are not alone. The healthcare industry is experiencing a wave of integration. In fact, it has been occurring for several years. Many transactional healthcare attorneys have negotiated and closed dozens of these transactions for clients. They have negotiated on behalf of the sellers in some cases and the buyers in others.

Ramping Up – A Quick Guide to Pressing COVID-19 Employment Law Issues

As the country continues to grapple with a global pandemic that now seems to be never-ending, businesses everywhere are waking up to realize that the calming of the COVID-19 employment issues over the summer has come to an end. As cases rise exponentially in all 50 states as we head into the winter months, the number of employment issues related to COVID-19 will also increase dramatically. For these reasons, it is important that we return to the employment law basics that were covered this prior spring, while highlighting the many lessons we have learned along the way. As COVID-19 matters and concerns continue to hinder the working environment of every business, it is important that you reference this review to guide you through these tough issues and questions.

Your Workplace Under Biden

This is my favorite recurring post – Predictions of How a New Administration Will Affect Your Workplace. Four years ago, we accurately called the emasculation of the 2016 proposed FLSA Overtime Rules (the salary exemption threshold was set at $35,568 in 2019, rather than $47,476 as proposed), we forecasted a conservative shift of the NLRB and its results (a roll-back of employee rights, social media policy evaluations, and joint employer rules), and we nailed the likelihood of multiple conservative appointments to the United States Supreme Court and its long-term effects (although I completely failed to predict that my ND classmate Amy Coney Barrett would fill the final vacancy during the Trump administration). This time, the L+E Practice of BMD has decided to make it a group effort at predicting what will happen, what probably happen, and what might happen under President Biden. As always, please save this in your important files and pull it out four (or eight) years from now to judge our accuracy.

HHS Provider Relief Funds Reporting Requirements: Important Updates Every Provider Should Know

HHS continues to revise its reporting requirements for the use of the Provider Relief Funds. Providers with more than $10,000 in Provider Relief Fund payments must report on the use of the funds through December 31, 2020. The reporting window will begin on January 15, 2021 and providers must complete reporting obligations for FY 2020 by February 15, 2021 through a portal designed by HHS. However, providers that have unexpended funds as of December 31, 2020, will have an additional 6 months to use the remaining funds through June 30, 2021. These providers must submit a second and final report no later than July 31, 2021.

Should I Apply for Phase 3 Funds? Important Considerations Every Provider Should Know

On October 1, 2020, the Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) announced an additional $20 billion in new funding for providers through a Phase 3 distribution. Importantly, providers that previously received HHS Provider Relief Funds or already received payments of approximately 2% of annual revenue from patient care are eligible to apply. Eligible providers have until November 6, 2020 to apply for these Phase 3 Funds. However, the question from providers continues to be: Should I Apply for Phase 3 Funds?