June 2020

Our Response to COVID-19

This note to you should have been written long ago.  I would have stated how we were beginning new techniques to serve you consistently with the best possible services.  Now I can tell you what we have done and how it is working.

We have been working predominantly from home since mid-March.  Several staff members chose to come in regularly, some intermittently and some never.  It has been remarkably successful.  Staff has adopted marvelously with the guidance of Office Manager, Kristina Ennis and technical services of Christine Smith our System Manager.  I cannot sufficiently praise the abilities of my staff to adapt to this and many prior changes.

Our data is protected by many steps taken by our software provider BSS.  They provide regular upgrades and email to assist in our handling of debtor and creditor data.  We also have a local computer consultant as well as a national security firm retained by NACTT members to monitor and test the security of our system.  There has never been a worry about the safety or accuracy of our data before, during or after our conversion to the telecommuting.  Through the leadership of Kris and Chris many staff members worked from home from this office long before COVID-19 was known.  We were well prepared to expand and utilize our pre-COVID-19 training.

Of course, we continue to monitor COVID-19 in general news sources and follow safety guidelines.  Our landlord, University of Michigan has been especially careful by providing healthy and safe procedures in common areas and in cleaning our offices.  Especially helpful also have been two agencies we have always relied upon for close contact and cooperation:  The National Association of Chapter 13 Trustee (NACTT) and the Office of the United States Trustee (UST).

NACTT has a listserv limited to only trustee traffic.  We exchange ideas and rely on it for the latest impact on an abundance of Chapter 13 issues.  It has been more helpful with the unusual events we now see.  It is very useful to learn how our issues are dealt with in other localities.

The UST has offered more cooperation than most trustees could ever hope for.  They allowed budget amendments across the nation so trustees could meet their local duties.  The best example for Flint was early on when the UST provided telephone conference lines so we could conduct the §341 meetings.  With the cooperation of attorneys, debtors, and creditors the telephonic §341 meetings seem to be working quite well, and in some respects more efficient than appearing in person.  Think travel and wardrobe.

The Court’s staff and Judge Applebaum have been tremendous adapting to the new electronic environment.  The leadership provided by the court took much stress out of the transition to the new personal contact approach.

The Chapter 13 Trustees in the Eastern District of Michigan are communicating more frequently to brainstorm the new conditions and to harmonize the approaches of our offices as much as we can.  These trustees exhibit great sensitivity to our role and the impact on the courts as well as all members of our community.

The steps we have taken to implement the new workplace methods are done to protect our staff and all members of the groups we serve.  I cannot praise my fellow workers strongly enough and compliment them on their abilities to learn new functions.  I am happy to report that no staff member has gotten sick and everyone is keeping up a normal pace.

Now for the nuts and bolts of going forward.  We are always ready to assist.  The telephones work the same as usual, but we prefer email.

Please visit our webpage at www.flint13.com for fresh and current information.  We are ready for new cases and any modification that the current events have caused.  The plans have many flexible provisions built in but if change is necessary the same procedures apply to a modify plan.

Clearly no response is requested by this memorandum.  It is designed to be informational only and to advise you all is under control and in some aspect thriving on this side of events.

We invite your comments, suggests and ideas.  Please let us know of any inefficiencies.  We will continue to stay current or ahead of events as they occur.

We wish you and yours a healthy, friendly, and safe future.


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