State Bankruptcies Rise 23 Percent

State Bankruptcies Rise 23 Percent

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Utah bankruptcies rose 23 percent over the last nine months, with most debtors seeking more time to pay what they owe rather than walk away from creditors.

Statistics from the U.S. Bankruptcy Court show 42 percent of the 4,633 filed petitions sought Chapter 13 protection between Jan. 1 and Sept. 30, 2007. That's an increase from 38 percent a year ago. Under Chapter 13, consumers are allowed to set up plans to repay their debts over time.

Fifty-eight percent of filed petitions sought Chapter 7 protection, which liquidates a debtor's property and distributes the proceeds to those owed money. During the same nine month-period last year 62 percent filed under Chapter 7.

Despite the number of filings, Utahns do a better job of paying their bills relative to other parts of the county, court clerk David Sime said. Utah's numbers remain well behind those seen prior to the adoption of the 2005 Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act, which brought about a sharp decline in the number of filings nationwide.

"There are some other areas of the country that are almost back to the levels they saw prior to the reform legislation taking effect," Sime said.

But Bill Crim, director of director of strategic initiatives and public policy at the United Way of Salt Lake, said there are still reasons to be worried.

"We have a strong economy now by most measures, so to see bankruptcies increasing is cause for concern," he said.

A 2006 United Way study found few Utahns were prepared to face short-term financial challenges, Crim said. Among the problems for families are a lack of financial literacy, low wages and rising health care and housing costs.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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