CCCS Launches New, FREE Student Loan Counseling Program; Joins the Education Debt Consumer Assistance Program (EDCAP) Network

CCCS Launches New, FREE Student Loan Counseling Program; Joins the Education Debt Consumer Assistance Program (EDCAP) Network

Will Help Local Borrowers Access Loan Forgiveness & Navigate Complex Student Loan Repayment System

Shortly after the federal government kicked off their student loan forgiveness application process, Consumer Credit Counseling Service (CCCS) announced their newly redesigned, cost free Student Loan Counseling Program to assist local borrowers. While the government’s process is meant to be simple, the complexities of student loans often cause uncertainty, anxiety and frustration.

For the past ten years, CCCS has operated the only Student Loan Counseling Program in Western New York, helping thousands of besieged borrowers tackle what many felt was insurmountable debt. Student loan repayment has long been an obstacle for a significant percentage of the population, particularly for younger people. 45% of 18-35 year olds  currently have student loan debt in New York State. Right now, 2.4 million New York State residents have outstanding loans; a total cumulative debt of over $90 billion.  

In October, the Education Debt Consumer Assistance Program (EDCAP) invited CCCS to join their statewide network after the New York State Legislature increased their funding specifically designated for New York State residents with higher education debt. EDCAP–a program of the Community Service Society of New York (CSS)—and CSS work to make New York State more livable for people facing economic insecurity. CSS created EDCAP as an initiative to help New Yorkers struggling with student debt to navigate the student loan repayment system and regain financial health. In addition to CCCS, EDCAP selected nine other partner organizations throughout the state to serve all of its geographic areas. Seven of these organizations focus on legal services and the other organization is a United Way, indicating that CCCS offers unique and highly regarded services.

CCCS’ collaboration with EDCAP provides CCCS with much needed funding to deliver all student loan counseling services free of charge to WNY residents. EDCAP, in turn, gets a greater and more direct geographic reach into a targeted area. The NYS Department of Financial Services will oversee this project which comes at “a critical time as borrowers navigate the complex student loan repayment system, try to benefit from the latest relief available, and prepare for payment resumption.” EDCAP

A slew of information—including announcements of major, sweeping, long awaited changes to student loan forgiveness that require specific, precise action steps–has steadily flowed recently. We designed our Student Loan Counseling Program to guide borrowers through the complicated process that is frequently intricate and quite possibly thorny. Experienced, Certified Financial Counselors understand that many of those coming for help feel overwhelmed, are confused or just plain over it…and are ready to help all. Our new partnership with EDCAP will allow us to serve even more people. We urge everyone to take positive action that will promote financial stability…Contact us at 716-712-2060 or www.consumercreditbuffalo.org for help with student loans or for any type of financial issues. 

CCCS Offers FREE Counseling Services & FREE Virtual Workshops for Financial Literacy Month, Starting April 1st

Call 716-712-2060 or visit www.consumercreditbuffalo.org 

The 1-year mark of the COVID 19 pandemic is upon us, and the impact has been heavy on people of all financial levels, particularly lower- and middle-income Americans. The toll of the damage has been vast, and the financial consequences may loom for years to come. Millions of Americans experienced unemployment and job loss for the first time, while many more have experienced hardship causing a range of economic challenges from the depletion of savings, to missing  loan payments, to housing insecurity.

April also marks Financial Literacy Month, tax season, and the receipt of the third Economic Impact (Stimulus) Payment; an excellent opportunity to review your finances, gain financial knowledge, and improve your overall financial outlook.

Consumer Credit Counseling Service (CCCS) announced today that it will offer free credit counseling services for the month of April; which will include “Financial Counseling”, “Financial Coaching”, and “Credit Report Review” sessions by phone and encourages all those concerned with their financial issues to call 712-2060 or visit www.consumercreditbuffalo.org. A Certified Financial Counselor will address financial concerns and provide community resources and relief options that may be available for consumers struggling with mortgage, student loan, auto loan and credit card payments. In addition, a Counselor can thoroughly review an individual’s or household’s income and expenses, credit report and score, and assist in creating a sustainable household budget.

In addition, CCCS, continues to offer free virtual workshops throughout the month focused on various topics such as budgeting, credit, managing student loans, identify theft and scams, and COVID-19 related relief, resources and referrals.

Upcoming April Workshops:

  • “Keeping Your Credit and Wallet Safe” – April 13th @ 12:00 PM
  • “Making Sense of Student Loan Repayment” – April 27th @ 5:30 PM EST

In addition, CCCS offers the following recommendations and guidance regarding the most recent stimulus payments: Make a spending plan before spending any of the money to determine how it can be best utilized

  • Catch up on any past due bills – Specifically housing and utility expenses
  • Start or fund an emergency savings account – This can help with unexpected expenses right away, or in the future
  • Pay down high interest rate debt, particularly credit cards
  • Start a holiday savings account – It’s never too early
  • Invest for your future – retirement, college savings, etc.

Financial Literacy Month is celebrated throughout the U.S. every April. Congress originally created it to raise public awareness about the importance of financial education and the serious consequences associated with a lack of understanding about personal finances.

This year, CCCS is using Financial Literacy Month to encourage all Western New York residents to determine their financial weaknesses, address debt, develop a budget, increase financial capabilities and to improve their economic stability. By providing free credit counseling services during the month of April, CCCS is taking positive action to promote financial stability for individuals and families in our region.

Community members are urged to call CCCS at 712-2060 or visit www.consumercreditbuffalo.org Take action to get back on a path toward financial stability and security during these extraordinary times. 

CCCS OF BUFFALO LAUNCHES NEW PROJECT TO HELP PEOPLE TACKLE DEBT EARLIER

We know it can be scary to reach out for support.

We want community members to know that they are not alone.

Without paychecks to cover their bills and emergency funds to fall back on, many Americans have turned to credit to stay afloat. DebtMonsters.org helps community members identify their debt situation and provides helpful next steps 

Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Buffalo (CCCS) today launched a new project to help community members identify their debt challenge and to access tips, tools, and support.

Research conducted by The Ohio State University demonstrates the positive client impact of nonprofit credit counseling. However, community members with debt challenges often reach out for credit counseling when they are already struggling with collections or are facing utilities shut off or even eviction.

A better time for people to reach out is when they are making payments, but those payments are not measurably bringing down their balances. “Our counselors often hear from clients that they wished they’d come in earlier for help addressing their debt, so this project is in response to that need,” said Noelle Carter, President & CEO. “We know it can be scary to reach out for support especially if you’re already struggling with a job loss, reduced hours, medical hardship, or caring for a family member. We want community members to know that they are not alone.”

Through CCCS’ new project and newly launched website, DebtMonsters.org, community members can take a fun, non-judgmental web-based quiz that helps people identify their debt situation and directs them to clear, easy next steps. CCCS wants people to know that there are tips, tools, and programs that can make a difference.

In addition to a locator to identify their local nonprofit credit counseling agency, the quiz also directs visitors to resources that can help them take the recommended next steps for their debt situation. Community members can reach out directly for help by visiting the www.consumercreditbuffalo.org or (716) 712-2060.

Debt is a very real problem. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Americans collectively hold $14.35 trillion in debt, increasing by $87 billion in the third quarter of 2020. While total credit card balances held by Americans have decreased $86 billion over the last two quarters combined due to weak consumer spending and some households paying down existing credit card debt, millions continue to struggle with the burden of debt in the face of time of adverse economic times. For many in our community, debt may enable homeownership or access to education. But for others, debt can quickly become difficult to manage as households experience emergencies, unexpected expenses, or shortfalls in their cash flow.

A February 24th article in Yahoo!Financedetails the results from a recently conducted GOBankingRates survey which sought to determine the average debt individuals will take on due to the coronavirus pandemic. Nationwide, about half of respondents said they expect to take on debt. However, that percentage varies greatly from state to state. https://finance.yahoo.com/news/much-debt-americans-due-coronavirus-130000018.html

Here is the debt breakdown they discovered for New York State:

$0: 47.98%

$1-$999: 15.15%

$1,000-$4,999: 14.65%

$5,000-$9,999: 9.09%

$10,000-$19,999: 6.57%

$20,000-$49,999: 3.54%

$50,000 or more: 3.03%

Whatever type of debt—or none at all—CCCS is ready to help all WNY residents. For any interested in a free financial checkup by phone—or any type of help at all–call 712-2060 or visit www.consumercreditbuffalo.org A Certified Financial Counselor will help address any financial concerns and can assist in creating a budget.  CCCS urges everyone to take positive action that will promote financial stability.

 

CCCS Seeks Volunteers: Improve the Economic Stability of Niagara County Residents

CCCS Seeks Volunteers: Improve the Economic Stability of Niagara County Residents;

Seeking Tax Preparation Volunteers

Volunteers have 27% higher odds of finding a job after being out of work than non-volunteers

Make A Difference in Your Community—while adding skills to your resume

Between the pandemic and our country’s recent social justice reckoning, the financial insecurity faced by millions of Americans is finally being seen as a systemic issue in need of reform.

An emerging movement for economic justice calls for intervention from the government, employers and nonprofit organizations. Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Niagara (CCCS) and the Niagara County Financial Literacy & Empowerment Coalition are leading the efforts in Niagara County.

And while the work is complex and will take much time, CCCS and the Coalition are beginning part of this ongoing project by announcing that they will once again hold their Free Tax Prep/Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program in Niagara County with sites in Lockport and Niagara Falls.

Volunteers will help low income individuals and families file their taxes—and access eligible tax credits–saving them hundreds of dollars in unnecessary tax preparation fees (Average cost of tax prep=$300 and tax credits, like the Earned Income Tax Credit, ranges from $506-$6,269) and avoiding refund anticipation loans and inflated filing fees (typically about $200 per filer—this makes the cost of filing taxes $500 or more!).

CCCS and the Coalition announced today that they are seeking volunteers for a few hours per week February through April 15th2021 to help with its Free Tax Prep Program. Those interested in becoming volunteers are urged to register with CCCS by contacting Robby Dunn at robert.dunn@cccsbuffalo.org by November 30th.  There is no prior experience required. Volunteers will receive free training and be part of a program that helps thousands of households every year. We encourage all those who want to help the individuals and families who are hurting the most to join our team.

Consumer Credit Counseling Service Announces FREE Virtual Workshop

Consumer Credit Counseling Service Announces FREE Virtual Workshop:

Holiday Spending Hacks

November 17th at 5:00 pm EST

As we move into the Holiday season, Consumer Credit Counseling Service (CCCS) is continuing to protect the financial health of everyone.

The pandemic has caused anxiety and stress for many in the region. As the only local nonprofit that works with individuals and families to achieve financial stability, CCCS has been helping our clients access options for financial relief and providing ongoing encouragement through free financial checkups by phone and monthly Virtual Workshops. The next workshop will be:

“Holiday Spending Hacks”- November 17th at 6:00 pm.

During this 60-minute presentation CCCS will review holiday budgeting and planning techniques, as well as creative ways to save during the holiday season.

Topics Include:

·         Budgeting & planning techniques

·         Creative holiday savings ideas

·         Tips on reducing holiday expenses

·         How to plan for next year!

To Register: https://bit.ly/2TWc0Ff

As a reminder, CCCS can help people with almost all financial issues, with several helpful programs available: one-on-one financial counseling (by phone), financial coaching, creditor repayment counseling, small business counseling, pre-purchase housing counseling, foreclosure mitigation counseling and bankruptcy counseling. These services are not just for people in crisis—CCCS helps people who proactively want to take charge of their finances, creating budgets and developing spending plans so that they can live a stable and successful life free from financial stress.

For those interested in a free financial checkup by phone—or any type of help at all–call (716) 712-2060 or visitwww.consumercreditbuffalo.org A Certified Financial Counselor will help address your financial concerns.  CCCS urges everyone to take positive action to promote financial stability.

Consumer Credit Counseling Service Announces Free Virtual Workshops

Consumer Credit Counseling Service Announces Free Virtual Workshops:
“Dollars and Sense”—Budgeting & Debt Control
Thursday June 4th at 1:00 pm
“Credit Counts”—Managing & Repairing Credit
Thursday June 11th at 1:00 pm
Consumer Credit Counseling Service (CCCS) continues to see people of all financial levels suffer as a result of the pandemic and encourages people to come to us, as soon as possible so we can help them access options for financial relief and provide some much needed encouragement during these times.
CCCS will help Western New York residents through free financial checkups by phone and through workshops to be held during June. CCCS has been providing free financial checkups since March and offering Virtual Workshops since April.
The “Dollars and Sense”—Budgeting & Debt Control Workshop will be held on Thursday June 4th at 1:00 pm
Topics include: 
Setting goals
Budgeting techniques
Creative ways to save
Debt control and the value of your money
To register for the workshop, you must email cccs@cccsbuffalo.org.
The “Credit Counts”—Managing & Repairing Credit will be held on Thursday June 11th at 1:00 pm
Topics include: 
Credit Reporting
Managing Credit
Debt Pitfalls
Repairing Credit
Importance of Good Credit
To register for the workshop, you must email cccs@cccsbuffalo.org.
For those interested in a free financial checkup by phone, call 712-2060 or visit www.consumercreditbuffalo.org.A Certified Financial Counselor will help address your financial concerns and can assist in creating an emergency budget.  CCCS urges you to take some positive action that will help quell anxiety and potentially alleviate fears.
About CCCS
CCCS is a non-profit, full-service credit counseling agency, providing confidential financial guidance, financial education, counseling and credit repayment assistance to consumers since 1965.  CCCS of Buffalo helps consumers trim expenses, develop a spending plan and repay debts.  Counseling is available at our Main Office in West Seneca, in one of our Satellite Offices, by telephone and via Internet.

Consumer Credit Counseling Service & the Veterans One-stop Center to Hold Free Virtual Workshop for Veterans

Veteran Financial Health During the Pandemic-Special Workshop Just for Veterans
Thursday May 14th at 12:00 pm on Zoom
Consumer Credit Counseling Service (CCCS) and the Veterans One-stop Center of WNY (VOC) urge local veterans to attend a free virtual workshop designed to address their specific financial needs on May 14th. Bank of America is sponsoring the workshop to promote economic mobility among vulnerable populations and has a long-standing commitment to veterans.
Veterans and active service members frequently experience financial challenges that are unique to their status, making financial uncertainty an unfortunate part of life for them and their families. The pandemic has intensified the challenges veterans and current military members face, plunging financially insecure veterans into a more intense arena of uncertainty. CCCS and the VOC are providing the Workshop to answer questions and offer guidance, in addition to their ongoing financial counseling for veterans, service members and their families, which enables veterans to make sense of their constantly changing situations, and to reduce anxiety and stress.
“These are difficult times for everyone, especially the veterans of the United States Armed Forces. It is the obligation of the Veterans One-stop Center of WNY, and our partners, to support and serve the veterans of Western New York, just like they supported and served for us when they joined the military.” Says Chuck Marra, President and CEO of the Veterans One-stop Center. “Thank you to Bank of America for sponsoring this workshop and making it possible. The workshop aims to alleviate and guide veterans on a path of economic success and financial sustainability, and assuage anxiety surrounding financial health during the pandemic.”
The free Veteran Financial Health During a Pandemic Workshop will be held on Thursday, May 14that 12:00 pm. It will include an overview of Community Resources and benefits with information about:
  • Creating an Emergency Budget
  • Emergency Budgeting Tips
  • Protecting Your Credit Score
  • Economic Stimulus Checks—veterans are eligible but it may be tricky as mentioned above
  • Mortgage Relief Options/Car Loans/Credit Card Payment Options
  • Avoiding Scams
footerLogosBW50.tifTo register for the workshop, you must email hphillips@vocwny.org or call 716-898-0110.
“Your financial health is an important thing to consider, especially now, and our virtual workshop with CCCS and the VOC will help answer any questions you may have,” said Kevin Murphy, Buffalo Market President for Bank of America. “Bank of America is committed to helping the veterans who have done so much for our company and our country, and we’re grateful to CCCS and VOC for this opportunity to give back to Buffalo’s retired and active duty military personnel.”

CCCS has been providing free financial checkups to all WNY residents since March and is now offering Virtual Workshops to the entire community. For those interested in a free financial checkup by phone, call 712-2060 or visit www.consumercreditbuffalo.org. A Certified Financial Counselor will help address your financial concerns during these extraordinary times and can assist in creating an emergency budget.  CCCS urges you to take some positive action that will help quell anxiety and potentially alleviate fears.
# # #
About CCCS
CCCS is a non-profit, full-service credit counseling agency, providing confidential financial guidance, financial education, counseling and credit repayment assistance to consumers since 1965.  CCCS of Buffalo helps consumers trim expenses, develop a spending plan and repay debts. Counseling is available at our Main Office in West Seneca, in one of our Satellite Offices, by telephone and via Internet.
About the Veterans One-stop Center of WNY
The Veterans One-stop Center of WNY is unites and empowers veterans, service members, and their families to transition from military to civilian life by providing free services and resources such as employment, financial counseling, legal, housing, and peer support, and more. For more information about the Veterans One-stop Center of WNY, visit www.vocwny.org.
About Bank of America
At Bank of America, we’re guided by a common purpose to help make financial lives better, through the power of every connection. We’re delivering on this through responsible growth with a focus on our environmental, social and governance (ESG) leadership. ESG is embedded across our eight lines of business and reflects how we help fuel the global economy, build trust and credibility, and represent a company that people want to work for, invest in and do business with. It’s demonstrated in the inclusive and supportive workplace we create for our employees, the responsible products and services we offer our clients, and the impact we make around the world in helping local economies thrive. An important part of this work is forming strong partnerships with nonprofits and advocacy groups, such as community, consumer and environmental organizations, to bring together our collective networks and expertise to achieve greater impact. Learn more at about bankofamerica.com and connect with us on Twitter (@BofA_News).
Bank of America has delivered more than $2 billion in philanthropic investments since 2009, with approximately $250 million in 2019 alone. In April 2019, the company announced a $5 billion Bank of America Community Homeownership Commitment™ to benefit low- and moderate-income homebuyers and communities across the U.S. over the next five years. Also in 2019, Bank of America Community Development Banking provided a record $4.88 billion in loans, tax credit equity investments and other real estate development solutions. Between 2005 and 2019, Bank of America financed 202,800 affordable housing units. To meet the unique needs of its 12 million small business owners, the company provides advice, solutions and dedicated support. Bank of America maintained its position as the nation’s top small business lender at the end of 2019, with $38.9 billion in total outstanding small business loan balances (defined as business loans in original amounts of $1 million and under), up 7% year over year.
For more Bank of America news, including dividend announcements and other important information, visit the Bank of America newsroom and register for news email alerts. www.bankofamerica.com

Consumer Credit Counseling Service Announces Free Virtual Workshops

Consumer Credit Counseling Service Announces Free Virtual Workshops:
Protect your Financial Health During the Pandemic
Wednesday May 6th at 1:00 pm
Protect your Financial Health During the Pandemic–Special Workshop Just for Veterans
In Partnership with the Veterans One Stop Center of WNY/Sponsored By Bank of America
Thursday May 14th at 12:00 pm
Consumer Credit Counseling Service (CCCS) has been experiencing the impact of the pandemic since its ugly beginning. Over the past six weeks, we have worked with hundreds of area residents from various financial situations who have been deeply affected by current events. The sudden and profound shock to an individual and to a family’s well being is overwhelming.
CCCS urges Western New York residents to come to us for help: through free financial checkups by phone and through workshops to be held during May.
CCCS has been providing free financial checkups since March and is now offering Virtual Workshops.
The Protect Your Financial Health During the Pandemic Workshop will be held on Wednesday, May 6th at 1:00 pm. It will include an overview of relief options and benefits with information about:
  • Economic Stimulus Checks
  • Unemployment Benefits
  • Community Resources & Benefits
  • Mortgage Relief Options
  • Student Loan Payment Options
  • Car Loans & Credit Card Payment Options
  • Protecting Your Credit Score
  • Emergency Budgeting Tips
To register for the workshop, you must email cccs@cccsbuffalo.org.
This workshop will also be held on May 14th BUT is limited to veterans only.
For those interested in a free financial checkup by phone, call 712-2060. A Certified Financial Counselor will help address your financial concerns during these extraordinary times and can assist in creating an emergency budget.  CCCS urges you to take some positive action that will help quell anxiety and potentially alleviate fears.
About CCCS
CCCS is a non-profit, full-service credit counseling agency, providing confidential financial guidance, financial education, counseling and credit repayment assistance to consumers since 1965.  CCCS of Buffalo helps consumers trim expenses, develop a spending plan and repay debts.  Counseling is available at our Main Office in West Seneca, in one of our Satellite Offices, by telephone and via Internet.

What is Financial Counseling? What is Credit Counseling? What are Debt Management Plans? What’s the Difference?!?!?

What is Financial Counseling?  What is Credit Counseling?  What are Debt Management Plans?  What’s the Difference?!?!?

Financial Counseling can also be called budget counseling or financial coaching.  This is a service provided by many nonprofit or for-profit service providers to review a personal budget.  An agency offering Financial Counseling may or may not be offering Credit Counseling and Debt Management.  When a Credit Counseling organization offers a Financial Counseling session, it will always include components regarding Credit Counseling and Debt Management. 

Credit Counseling and Debt Management are often synonymous when locating information.  While very closely related, they are not the same activity.  Let’s first review what each of those truly are:

·         Credit Counseling is the process where a counselor reviews a consumer’s budget debt scenario that can be resolved through all the various methods available; including, 1) self-budgeting and power payment methods, 2) consolidation loans or housing refinancing options, 3) Debt Management Plans, 4) debt settlements, and 5) bankruptcy.

·         A Debt Management Plan (DMP) is a contracted service offered by an organization offering Credit Counseling.  The DMP includes all unsecured debts with the ability to workout arrangements with the perspective creditors listed.  The creditors listed usually offer one or more benefits for their inclusion on the DMP; including, 1) lower interest, 2) lower monthly payment, 3) payoff within 60 months, 4) re-age of past due amounts (bringing the account current for credit reporting purposes), and 5) stopped late and over-limit fees.  The only people knowledgeable enough to provide the specifics of how a DMP can work for you are those that offer a DMP directly. 

It’s for these reasons that Credit Counseling and Debt Management are inseparably linked services.  An individual cannot have a Credit Counseling session without the review of an actionable Debt Management Plan; an individual cannot have a Debt Management Plan without first engaging in Credit Counseling.

The Federal Trade Commission notes that “most reputable credit counselors are non-profit and offer services at local offices, online, or on the phone” (source, FTC website).  The FTC also states that reputable counselors are trained in consumer credit, money and debt management, and budgeting; without each of these a counselor would fall short of the FTC’s definition of a reputable organization.

Housing and Urban Development (HUD) trained housing counselors are experts in housing related issues.  Their training consists of 1) pre-purchase counseling to assist those in obtaining a new home, 2) post-purchase or delinquency mortgage counseling, 3) rental counseling for those that have difficulties with their landlord, 4) reverse mortgage counseling, and 5) budget only counseling to train individuals on personal budget techniques and provide ideas on how to reduce personal expenses to better balance their budget.  HUD housing counselors that don’t work with an agency that provides Debt Management Plans are not trained to provide information on how a Debt Management Plan will work for anyone.  It’s understandable though, how can they provide specific information on a service they do not directly engage.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau echoes the view of the FTC, “Credit counseling organizations can advise you on your money and debts, help you with a budget, and offer money management workshops” (source, CFPB website).  Without a full spectrum review of an individual’s debts and advice of all of the options to pay them off, a counselor falls short of the CFPB’s definition of credit counseling.

New York State’s Department of Financial Services permits Debt Management activities under the “Budget Planner” license.  With the services synonymously and inseparably linked, only licensed Budget Planners in New York can ethically note themselves as Credit Counselors.

The only agency in Western New York able to provide Credit Counseling is Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Buffalo, Inc. (CCCS of Buffalo).  CCCS is a non-profit, full-service credit counseling agency, providing confidential financial guidance, financial education, counseling and debt management assistance to consumers since 1965.  CCCS helps consumers trim expenses, develop a spending plan and repay debts.  Counselors are trained and certified through the National Foundation for Credit Counseling and HUD housing counseling.  CCCS of Buffalo is licensed by the NYS Department of Financial Services as a “Budget Planner”.

Counseling is available at our Main Office in West Seneca, in one of our Satellite Offices, by telephone and via Internet.  Visit www.consumercreditbuffalo.orgfor more information.