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Published: Wednesday, 7/2/2003

Bankruptcies stay heavy

She is a Toledo convenience store clerk who takes home $225 a week and owes $5,800 on six credit cards, $8,400 in medical expenses, and $3,100 to a cell phone provider.

She filed for bankruptcy Monday, on the last day of another pace-setting month at U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Toledo.

With the first half of 2003 history, the office continues on track to smash through last year's record-breaking number of filings by northwest Ohio residents seeking debt relief. It includes filings from 21 counties.

The office received 911 bankruptcy petitions in June, up 39 percent from the same month last year. This year was the first that filings exceeded 900 in four consecutive months, said David Fickel, bankruptcy clerk in charge.

“Prior years demonstrate a pattern of decreases in June following heavy filing volume during the spring months,” he noted.

Through the first six months of the year, 5,149 petitions, or 19 percent more than at the same time in 2002, were filed. That number is just 216 short of the 5,365 bankruptcies locally in all of 1999.

At current rates, northwest Ohio will easily surpass the record 8,853 petitions filed in 2002.

The tally for the last 12 months is 9,677, Mr. Fickel said.

Bankruptcy filings have been growing across the nation, but not as rapidly as in northwest Ohio. Data for comparable months is unavailable. But for the first quarter of 2003, bankruptcies petitions rose 9 percent nationally as a result of what experts say “is continued evidence that U.S. households continue to struggle with the burden resulting from consumer debts incurred in the 1990s.”

More people are making attempts to repay debts, however. In the Toledo office of bankruptcy court in the first half of the year, 428 Chapter 13 repayment plans, or 32 percent more than the same time last year, were filed.

There were just six Chapter 11 business reorganization cases, compared with seven in the first half of 2002.



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