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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And that kind of inconvenience is all too familiar to people in Birmingham, Alabama. Their community, Jefferson County, is bankrupt. But the county has now filed a plan to get out. It would force creditors to lose up to 70 cents on the dollar.

Here's NPR's Jim Zarroli.

JIM ZARROLI, BYLINE: In 2011, Jefferson County underwent what's been called the largest government bankruptcy in U.S. history.

Because of a combination of corruption and poor management, the county was unable to repay money it borrowed to upgrade its sewage system.

The plan, unveiled over the weekend, would enable the county to get out of bankruptcy by December 20th. But it will pay a stiff price. Residents will see big increases in their sewage bills.

The county has already had to lay off hundreds of works and cut services sharply.

By defaulting on its debts, Jefferson County is also likely to have a lot of trouble borrowing again for years.

Its creditors, which include Wall Street companies like J.P. Morgan, will have to take big hits on the money they lent.

The plan must be approved by a bankruptcy court judge.

Jim Zarroli, NPR News.

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