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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Bankruptcy filings in April up 56% from '09

BY Greg Wiles
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser
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Hawai'i bankruptcy filings accelerated in April, reaching their highest level in four and a half years.

Federal Bankruptcy Court statistics show filings jumped to 391 last month or the most since amendments to federal law made it more time-consuming and cumbersome to seek protection.

Bankruptcies have risen for three consecutive months as people continue to experience economic problems brought on by unemployment, fewer work hours and problem mortgages. The April number was 56 percent more than a year earlier.

Honolulu bankruptcy attorney Ed Magauran said some of the increase is linked to people finally running out of cash after trying to hold on during an economic downturn.

He said this results in filings increasing at a time when people say the economy is improving.

"People are hearing we're getting out of this thing, we're getting out of this, but they're not," Magauran said.

"I do see that with small business owners who have been really trying to ride out the storm and at some point they say we can't do it anymore."

Magauran noted that the numbers are starting to regain heights achieved before the federal bankruptcy law was modified in October 2005.

"But the truth is we have just come up to where we were up to before the change. The difference is you're seeing more distressed home owners."

Hawai'i's bankruptcy filings per capita traditionally have been one of the lowest in the country but have been rising. Federal court numbers show Hawai'i's rate last year was fifth lowest, at 2.41 cases per 1,000 population.

That compared to the 4.73 national average and the country's highest rate of 11.28, found in Nevada.

Washington, D.C. was the lowest at 1.96.

The local bankruptcy figures for April also show:

• The 391 filings were the third-highest total in at least six years.

• O'ahu had the highest increase in filings, rising to 250.

• Maui County had the second highest total at 70, though this was down by three from a month earlier.

• Hawai'i County also experienced a decline from March, with filings falling by nine to 47.

• Kaua'i's total rose to 24, or two more than a month earlier.