In Anderson, Indiana, where one of my four bankruptcy law offices is located, a new restaurant is opening, I hear, called Bickel’s Uptown Café. That’s a cheerful note for Anderson, which has been especially hard hit with the economic downturn because so much of its fortune is tied to the automotive industry. Under new legislation approved by Congress two weeks ago, many workers who have lost their jobs stand to benefit from the stimulus. That’s because workers already receiving unemployment benefits get some additional money, and more people will become eligible for benefits. The stimulus plan is designed to help not only full time workers who’ve lost their jobs, but part-timers and people in training programs. This last benefit of the stimulus is of special interest to me, as it will help many single women who are primary caregivers for children and the elderly, a group that is heavily represented among my bankruptcy clients.
Federal funds have also been earmarked for help paying COBRA health insurance premiums for people who’ve lost their jobs, and to help boost Medicaid benefits to Hoosiers. This provision, too, is important to my Indiana bankruptcy clients, because medical expenses are one of the three leading causes of bankruptcy. 95% of all Americans will be eligible for a tax break (it amounts to $13 a week this year, dropping to $8 a week next year). Most of the building projects towards which Governor Daniels plans to devote the stimulus money are in Ft. Wayne, Carmel, Indianapolis, and Evansville, but some spillover in business growth could result for Anderson as well. The stimulus includes $1.7 billion to make sales tax on new car purchases tax-deductible. The hope is this measure will stimulate new car sale, which should be of particular help in Anderson, along with the provisions of the stimulus plan that boost consumers’ access to credit, including auto loans and student loans.
Anderson and the surrounding areas should benefit from the RV industry aid portion of the stimulus plan as well. Auto workers should be helped because RVs become more affordable, since sales and excise taxes for new motorized RV’s purchased through 2009 will be tax deductible.
Many of my clients are using Chapter 13 bankruptcy as a means to protect their homes from foreclosure. While all the details of the federal plan to help areas hit by foreclosures and help forestall new foreclosures have not yet been clarified, I am hoping that relief for homeowners will be forthcoming very soon. As I pointed out in my earlier blog, “Bankruptcy And Foreclosure – And The Walls Come Tumbling Down”, foreclosures have continued to mount, and several major banks have agreed to cooperate on a plan to allow bankruptcy judges to alter home loans. As I remarked last month, “Let’s cross our fingers!”