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Eviction threat has NH single mom in fear and ‘cliff is coming’

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Kyle Stucker
 
| Portsmouth Herald

Jessica Marino says her story is one of desperation.

For much of the past couple of years, Marino says desperation has guided her decisions as she has clawed through trauma and unsafe situations in pursuit of stability for her 9-year-old son, Sam.

“A lot of times, the decisions we make when we make them out of desperation are not going to be good choices because you’re sort of just grasping at something,” she said. “You’re trying to paddle upstream with nothing.”

Marino fears nothing but more desperation lies beyond both options at her latest crossroads.

That crossroads gave her the option to escape a $900-a-month Rochester apartment she says was unsafe, but do so by moving into a $1,614 Dover apartment her paycheck and savings won’t be able to sustain unless her circumstances cha

Or, she could’ve fought substandard conditions in that Rochester apartment, potentially losing the only housing she’s found at her price point because the landlord has already threatened her with eviction — which she alleges he did out of retaliation.

The Manchester native, former Northwood firefighter and single mother ultimately chose to leave last week, moving into the Princeton Dover Apartments off Princeton Way.

“I can’t afford to have an eviction,” Marino said bluntly with a furrowed brow. “I literally was trying to figure out, ‘OK, how do we (fight) this?’ and I’m like, ‘I just have to get out.’ We’ve got to get out before he takes us to court.”

For Marino and other renters in the Granite State, that five-letter word — court — is fear inducing.

Surge of evictions

Experts in the state and nationwide have been warning for months that a tidal wave is rolling in as a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention moratorium on nonpayment evictions nears its Dec. 31 end.

The U.S. Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey has indicated more than 30% of renter respondents have little or no confidence in their ability to make next month’s rent payment. A recent analysis by a Columbia University economist also estimates a 40% to 45% increase in homelessness by the end of 2020 – approximately 250,000 Americans.

Local warnings are now intensifying because other types of evictions, like for renovations and building sales, have been steadily increasing New Hampshire eviction court filings back to pre-COVID-19 levels ever since the state’s moratorium expired in July.

“People are going to be in a really tough spot come Jan. 1 when a lot of landlords, I think, are itching to move forward with evictions that have been put on hold,” said Marta Hurgin, a Portsmouth resident who is handling COVID-19 housing and unemployment cases as a staff attorney at the New Hampshire Legal Advice and Referral Center (LARC). “We’re worried another cliff is coming for tenants without further assistance from the state or federal government.”

The total number of landlord-tenant writs — the first legal step in the eviction process — filed in the state’s district courts doubled from 41 in the week before New Hampshire’s ban ended in July, to 85 the week after it ended, according to data posted on the court system’s website.

Writs spiked to 193 by the week of Aug. 10 and have held steady between 60 and 130 new filings every single week since, save for the holiday-shortened week of Thanksgiving.

In that time, Dover and Rochester’s district courts have had the third and fourth most writ filings in the state during the pandemic, behind Manchester and Nashua.

“We think they are going to increase drastically by the end of the year,” said Hurgin.

This is problematic, Hurgin and local housing advocates say, because of the impact evictions have on renters’ ability to find affordable housing in a state that has next to none available.

Seacoast’s tough housing market

Rental vacancy rates are around 1%. The average rent for a two-bedroom unit has skyrocketed to $1,623 in Rockingham County (a 28% increase in the past five years) and $1,291 in Strafford County (a 26% increase in the same timeframe), according to a recent housing market report by the New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority.

Flood that untenable market with hundreds or ethousands of newly evicted tenants and Hurgin says it’s going to deeply worsen the fact landlords already shuffle people with black marks on their rental records — like evictions, low income and bad credit — to the bottom of their stacks of apartment applications. Those stacks can be anywhere from 50 to 300 applications tall for a single Seacoast apartment, local landlords have recently said.

“We have tenants who have been looking for months. They know an eviction is coming … and they’re desperately trying to find a place to go, and there’s nowhere,” said Hurgin, who, as one of five attorneys at NH LARC, has helped 8 to 10 clients a week counter evictions using the CDC moratorium. “The rents are increasing, the availability is decreasing, and we’re coming into the coldest part of the year. There’s definitely a lot of concern for people out there.”

Marino agreed, stating it’s why she wants to get a job involving housing advocacy. She believes a lack of understanding and compassion around why people are housing insecure will greatly hurt Seacoast residents when nonpayment evictions resume.

“We all get thrown into the same pot: You’re being evicted because there’s something wrong with you,” said Marino. “People just assume you’re being evicted because you’re scum. People just put everybody into the same peg.”

Housing funding and resources

One of the strategies New Hampshire and its governor, Chris Sununu, rolled out this year to help renters behind on rent was a housing relief program that provides one-time grants – up to $2,500 – for past-due rent and utilities.

The grants cover households that lost income or saw increased household expenses as a result of COVID-19. They can also be used for additional one-time housing expenses that could place an individual or family in jeopardy if left unpaid.

Sununu allocated $35 million in federal CARES Act funding to create the relief program, putting the state’s five community action programs, including those in Rockingham and Strafford counties, in charge of disbursement.

Betsey Andrews Parker, executive director of Community Action Partnership of Strafford County, has said she’s seen an increase in the number of landlords working with her organization to help keep tenants housed thanks to the program.

However, state officials have said they expect millions of dollars will go unclaimed in the program when the application period ends Dec. 18.

“There will be money left on the table that could’ve gone to people,” said Hurgin.

In August, Sununu vetoed House Bill 1247, which would have offered tenants a six-month repayment plan for rent payments that were missed during the coronavirus pandemic, and clarified that tenants would not need an eviction notice in order to file for welfare assistance. In a veto message, Sununu wrote he believed the bill would’ve added “a major structural problem to an already precarious housing environment.”

Elsewhere, CARES Act funding has been allocated to provide larger grants to landlords whose tenants have been unable to make rent.

In the District of Columbia, CARES Act money is being used to provide grants that cover 80% of missed payments, up to $2,000 per tenant per month, if the landlord agrees to waive the remaining 20% of rent and any unpaid fees, according to a report by Street Sense Media, a news site that covers homelessness and housing issues in DC.

Ryan Weiss, vice president-elect of the New Hampshire Real Estate Investors Association, said New Hampshire implementing a relief program like DC’s would aid local landlords who could get financially “squeezed” even more if the federal moratorium is extended.

“That sounds maybe more fair,” said Weiss, who owns Blue Door Living, a Manchester property management company that oversees 15 buildings containing 61 total apartments. “The challenge is that some of the tenants who were on unemployment and receiving the additional $600 a week were still deciding to not pay their rent. So if there could be relief funds that landlords could access directly on behalf of tenants who are not paying, then I think that would be a really effective program.”

While Weiss said completely lifting the moratorium would help landlords, he said he understands why it was imposed. He also said he and other association members do “feel a lot of empathy for tenants who have been put in really tough spots” because they’ve lost income and jobs due to COVID-19.

“I hope if there’s any future relief that’s available, I hope there’s relief available for both tenants who are negatively impacted and landlords who are negatively impacted,” he said. “If you’re going to prevent us from removing tenants that aren’t paying, then at least give us access to some relief.”

Marino agreed, stating the lack of such programs is symptomatic of the limited funding New Hampshire allocates to proactive and preventive housing strategies.

The state’s strategies are expected to change through the recently retooled Council on Housing Stability, which is set to bring legislative suggestions and preliminary ideas for updating the state’s 2006 homelessness plan by Dec. 14.

“Everything right now with this whole COVID thing, it’s just compounded the problems tenfold for people who are struggling,” said Marino. “New Hampshire is pushing people out of here. It’s almost like the only people who are going to be sustainable in New Hampshire are those who do well and make like, what, $100,000?”

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Call a Reconsideration Line for a Second Chance at a Credit Card

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Illustration for article titled Call a Reconsideration Line for a Second Chance at a Credit Card

Photo: F8 studio (Shutterstock)

Getting rejected for a credit card can feel like a low blow, especially if you’ve fallen on hard times. But you still have a lesser-known, last-ditch option available—the reconsideration line, which allows borrowers to appeal their rejection directly with their lender. Here’s how to use it.

First, understand why you were rejected

Your credit card application can be rejected for a number of reasons, like a bad credit history, low income, outstanding debt payments, having too many credit cards, and employment history. By law, card issuers must give you a reason why your application was rejected, so read your rejection notice carefully and know why you were turned down.

Some of these reasons can be obvious: As an example, you wouldn’t expect to qualify for a premium credit card with a high limit if you have a terrible credit score. However, since the initial application is automated, a lot of borderline cases simply don’t qualify for credit. Fortunately, that’s where reconsideration lines kick in: You can call an actual human on the phone and make your case for approval—if you’re lucky, they’ll overturn the rejection.

Prepare for the call

There are no guarantees, but if you plead your case as a responsible potential customer, the lender might be convinced. Prepare for the call by knowing your outstanding debts, income, and credit score. If you’re rejected because of your credit score, you have the right to request a free copy of the credit report used by the lender within 60 days. Review the report and look for errors (they do happen). If you find any, dispute them and mention this in your call. Otherwise, be polite, as the person on the other end of the line is under no obligation to reverse the lender’s initial decision. Hopefully, after pleading your case, your application might be accepted, after all.

Reconsideration lines for major banks

Below are the phone numbers for dedicated reconsideration lines (if available), although note that they tend to change frequently. If your bank isn’t on the list, call their customer service number and ask if there’s someone you can talk to. Also, make sure you call within 30 days of your rejection, as applications typically expire after 30 days, forcing you to apply again (and incur a hard pull on your credit history, which can lower your credit score).

  • American Express has a reconsideration line that can be reached by calling 1-800-567-1083, Monday to Friday from 8:00 a.m. – midnight ET, and 10:00 a.m. – 6:30 p.m. ET, on Saturday.
  • Bank Of America used to have a dedicated reconsideration line but it looks like calling 1-877-721-9405 during business hours is your best option.
  • Barclay’s reconsideration line is 1-866-408-4064 and can be reached Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. ET.
  • Capital One doesn’t have a dedicated reconsideration line, but you can try general customer service line, 1-800-951-6951, or application services, at 1-800-625-7866, during normal business hours.
  • Chase has a reconsideration team can be reached by calling 1-888-270-2127 between 7:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday, and 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., ET, on Saturdays.
  • Citibank can be reached by calling 1-800-695-5171, between 8:00 a.m. – midnight ET, every day.
  • Discover doesn’t have a reconsideration line, and they don’t have a reputation for overturning rejecting credit card applications, but you could try their 24-hour customer service line, 1-800-347-2683.
  • US BANK doesn’t seem to have a dedicated reconsideration line anymore, but you can call 1-800-947-1444 (Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. ET, and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET).
  • Wells Fargo has a reconsideration department that can be reached by calling 1-866-412-5956, between 9:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday, or by calling 1-800-967-9521, between 8:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. ET, on Saturdays.

This post was originally published in 2013 and has been updated Jan. 20, 2021 to include updated information.

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Debt consolidation programs: How they work

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If you’re trying to pay off debt, you’ve probably looked into the variety of options that could help. If so, you’ve likely come across debt consolidation programs — and may be wondering what they are.

Debt consolidation programs can help borrowers who may be overwhelmed by debt payments by combining multiple loans into a single payment. Typically, these programs are offered by credit counseling organizations. These organizations may offer guidance and financial planning in addition to helping consolidate debt.

A reputable credit counseling organization will likely incorporate guidance to help with managing debts, along with providing educational material, workshops and other ways to help borrowers work to develop a realistic budget.

A legitimate debt consolidation program should feature counselors who are certified and trained in offering advice on consumer finance issues in order to create a personalized plan, whether it’s to address credit card debt, bad credit or other needs.

Consolidating debt typically results in a refinanced loan, with a lower or more manageable interest rate and modified repayment terms. According to the Federal Trade Commission, it is recommended to find a local debt consolidation program offering credit counseling in person.

You may find these accredited, nonprofit programs are offered through channels like credit unions, universities, religious organizations, military bases and U.S. Cooperative Extension Service branches.

(It’s important to note that everyone’s debt payoff needs differ, so your mileage may vary.)

Related: Paying off debt—9 strategies to try

What Is a Debt Consolidation Program?

Debt consolidation programs can play two roles. For one, they help borrowers combine multiple loans into a single payment, which can make repayment less overwhelming. For another, they act as credit counselors.

With tools for loan repayment strategies and debt management, they can help lower or simplify monthly debt payments. These types of programs are usually managed by credit counseling companies.

It’s good to note the difference between debt consolidation programs and an actual loan opened to consolidate debt.

Qualifying consumers can use a debt consolidation loan (typically an unsecured personal loan) to combine multiple debts into a new single loan as well, possibly with a lower interest rate. But there is no counseling offered during the loan application process, and paying down the debt remains entirely the burden of the borrower.

The services outlined above can make a debt consolidation program different from other methods of consolidation or interest reduction, such as a balance transfer for a credit card, or a personal installment loan from a banking institution or lender.

Keep in mind that debt consolidation is also different from debt settlement, which is a process used to settle debts for less than what is owed.

When enrolled in a debt management program, which is one part of a debt consolidation program, a single monthly payment is sent to the credit counseling agency, which then distributes an agreed-upon amount to each credit card or loan company. The goal of the program is to act as an interlocutor for the debt between the borrower and creditor.

While most debt consolidation program companies are nonprofit organizations, nonprofit status does not guarantee services are free, or even affordable.

These organizations can, however, reach out to the lenders on behalf of the borrower to find an affordable repayment plan, which could take shape in the form of waived fees or penalties, lowering interest rates, in exchange for a specific timeline of usually three to five years for the debt to be repaid.

These programs are not loans, which would come from financial institutions. Perhaps most importantly, debt consolidation programs do not make any promises to reduce the amount of debt owed. Those are debt settlement programs, run by outside companies who negotiate payments with creditors, and can be for-profit, predatory or may not act in the best interest of the borrower.

A debt management program, on the other hand, could help set borrowers up for future success, when it comes to how to budget and manage money, educating consumers about cutting expenses or ways to increase income in order to gradually eliminate debt.

Pros and Cons of Debt Consolidation Programs

Debt consolidation is typically most beneficial to those struggling with high monthly debt payments. Paying just the minimum balance on debts every month means it could take a long time to pay off the debt, and interest costs could continue to add to the balance. Getting rid of high-interest debts can help make it easier to pay off the principal amount of the loan.

While having a lot of debt is certainly stressful, it’s worth weighing the pros and cons of any debt consolidation program before signing up. Here are some pros and cons to ponder:

Pros

  • Multiple payments are combined into one payment, likely making it easier to pay on time.
  • Credit counseling could help a borrower get back on track with tools like budgeting and other financial advice.
  •  Some programs can help negotiate lower interest rates, fees, possibly creating a more affordable payback plan.

Note: Because lowering interest rates may extend the number of time borrowers would pay their debt off, they may end up spending more on interest in the long run.

Cons

  • Debt consolidation programs do not reduce the principal amount of debt owed.
  • They can easily be confused for more predatory programs offered by some debt consolidation settlement companies.
  • Some programs might charge fees.

Many of the legitimate counseling companies tend to follow a similar setup process, which typically includes an interview with a counselor to go over things like income, expenses, and current bills and loans. The counselor might suggest areas where spending could be reduced and offer educational materials.

The program may also help set up a budget and will send the proposal out to creditors to agree to any new monthly payments, fees, payment schedules, interest rates or other factors, Reputable programs should only charge for set-up and a monthly fee.

It is generally recommended to take extra care with any for-profit organizations requiring a lot of upfront fees, memberships, or fees for each creditor they work with on negotiation. There is no magic pill to reduce debt, so spending less and budgeting more have been key pillars of a healthy financial foundation.

No company should promise a quick turnaround for becoming debt-free overnight. Historically, credit repair has been a market tainted by fraud, so it’s recommended to tread carefully and do the research before signing on to any program.

Selecting a Debt Consolidation Program

One common and simple way to sign up for this type of debt management program is to contact a reputable nonprofit credit counseling agency. The U.S. Department of Justice offers a list of approved credit counseling agencies by state.

Along with ensuring the agency you’re considering is on this list, you may want to consider doing further research by asking your state attorney general and checking local consumer protection agency websites.

Debt settlement companies often try to sell themselves as the same service, so be wary and check to be sure the organization is offering financial counseling and not making promises to reduce the amount of debt owed.

Based on the interview and assessment of current income and debt, the counselor could either recommend a debt management program, or another solution which could be a personal loan, bankruptcy, or some other form of settlement.

The company should not promise any sort of quick fix or short-term solutions.

The National Foundation for Credit Counseling is responsible for certifying many of these counselors, who must complete a comprehensive training program certifying them to help and educate consumers regarding their finances.

Because most nonprofits are certified, it helps to read consumer reviews of these programs as well, to see how the company operates.

The next step is to check what services are offered and what fees will be charged, such as an initial sign-up fee and recurring monthly fee. Understanding the costs upfront is important, and can help someone avoid a possibly predatory, for-profit business.

Something else you may think to look out for: A settlement company may charge more fees initially on the promise to arrange a reduced lump sum payment of debts.

These companies often instruct  consumers to stop making payments entirely on their debt, which could affect credit rating and even may cause the creditor to send the debt to a collection agency. A legitimate program should offer financial advice and counseling on ways to help reduce debt.

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This article originally appeared on SoFi.com and was syndicated by MediaFeed.org.

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Village of New Paltz might expand eligibility for revolving loan fund | Local News

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NEW PALTZ, N.Y. — The village is considering expanding eligibility for a little-used revolving loan fund to include the needs of businesses being hit hard by the COVID-related economic slowdown.



Village of New Paltz trying to help residents get refunds from waste haulers

Village of New Paltz Mayor Tim Rogers




Mayor Tim Rogers said Tuesday that the $500,000 loan fund could be used to help businesses with more than just the purchase of personal protective equipment allowed under state and federal programs.

“We’re trying to piggyback off of the existing language for the revolving loan fund,” he said. “We just wanted to make it somewhat broad in terms of recognizing COVID impacts.”

One thing the village is considering is eliminating the rule that prohibits the use of the fund for emergency situations or business operations.

“Here we are flipping it and saying that you can,” Rogers said.

Guidelines for the loan program, which was established with funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, were last updated in 2013. The loan fund’s current interest rate is 3%.

Rogers said the fund has received only two loan applications over the past six years, and one of those was rejected.

“There’s only been one that we awarded and one that we straight up denied,” he said, noting that the rejection was because of the applicant’s bad credit history.

Rogers said the COVID-19 pandemic has created something of an economic irony in the village: decreased foot traffic in the business district but a significant increase in applications for building permits.

“[Village Safety Inspector] Cory Wirthmann believes our busy Building Department is partially a function of people traveling or vacationing less,” the mayor said. “ Money they would have spent is now going to home improvement wish list projects or just deferred maintenance, like finally choosing to replace the old roof.”

Comments about expanding the revolving loan fund should be emailed to  assistant@villageofnewpaltz.org. A loan application and information about the process can be found online at bit.ly/npaltz-loans.

For local coverage related to the coronavirus, go to bit.ly/DFCOVID19.

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