U.S. commercial bankruptcies up 33% year to date

FILE PHOTO: A person holds a sign advertising a sale at Century 21, a retail outlet that announced it was filing for bankruptcy and closing its stores due to the economic impact of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., September 26, 2020. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

(Reuters) - U.S. commercial bankruptcy filings are up 33% so far this year with new cases in September surging by 78% from a year earlier as the recession triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic hits small businesses, data released on Monday showed.

Filings by individuals, however, are lower so far this year courtesy of government relief efforts.

Chapter 11 bankruptcy filings totaled 747 last month, up from 420 a year earlier and from 525 in August, legal services firm Epiq said in a monthly report. Year-to-date filings total 5,529, a third higher than in the first three quarters of 2019.

“These commercial filings are primarily small businesses that do not have access to capital or stimulus,” Deirdre O’Connor, managing director of corporate restructuring at Epiq, said in a statement. “Unfortunately, those bankruptcies will continue to rise in the current economic environment.”

By contrast, noncommercial bankruptcies are lower year-to-date, largely as government relief programs such as the CARES Act helped to forestall a wave of individual insolvencies.

Chapter 13 non-commercial filings are down 43% in 2020, with 118,306 filings versus 206,933 filings in the first nine months of 2019.

“Regulatory programs have effectively kicked the can down the street by injecting liquidity into the market, delaying new bankruptcy filings,” said Chris Kruse, senior vice president of Epiq AACER.

Reporting By Dan Burns; Editing by Alistair Bell