Catholic Charities sees spike in clients seeking budget counseling

By | March 5, 2009

But CC also has the statistics to prove that people are more in need of budget counseling and financial guidance in these tough economic times.0906bishopappeal-web

See related stories

Bishop’s Appeal ’09 kicks off

Bishop’s Appeal: Making a difference

UWGB’s campus ministry has new director

Fox Valley parish ministers to needy

Commissioned Ministry’s success leads to Hispanic outreach

Bishop’s Appeal reaches
$3 million mark

Lison said the number of clients for their services – all of which are provided free of charge and funded in part by Bishop’s Appeal funds – started to rise last year. 2008 showed a 31 percent increase in new clients.

In response to the growing need, CC increased its staff last year, bringing one part-time counseling position up to fulltime. They now have four counselors, serving the four CC offices in Appleton, Manitowoc, Marinette and Green Bay.

With national unemployment figures projected to climb to 8.8 percent this year, and already at its highest levels in 22 years, CC is seeing increases in people coming in who have lost their jobs. This is especially true in Manitowoc.

“In Manitowoc,” Lison said, “Beth (Snyder) is working hard to get in to meet with HR personnel of those places who are laying off people, to come in and do a presentation or have information available.”

In the Green Bay area, CC is seeing what they call “precursors to layoffs.” People are getting temporary layoffs or have to take a day off a week without pay, so they have less money each month to pay the same amount of bills. And that means an increased potential for crisis.

Think you’re doing OK?

Most Americans do not have enough money set aside in case they lose their job, have a major repair bill or have a major medical expense.

Bobbie Lison, budget counselor at Catholic Charities has the following tips for all of us in these tough economic times:

  • Look at your finances as if you were already in crisis.
  • Cut back and look at what you’re spending.
  • Look at your ‘needs’ instead of your ‘wants’.
  • Stash money into savings.
  • Look at things you can push off, like big vacations. Look instead at local vacations and shorter trips.
  • Don’t count on things like future tax refunds or rebates to pay for current purchases.
  • Don’t count on a bonus as sure income.
  • “I would also encourage people to call and meet with a budget counselor to call and check up on your finances, do a little budget checkup,” said Lison.

All Catholic Charities budget counseling is free of charge. To make an appointment, call toll-free 1-877-500-3580, ext. 8234.

“The majority of Americans are one or two paychecks away from it all falling in on them,” said Lison. “One thing happens, they’ll find themselves in the same boat” as those in a real economic crisis.

In Manitowoc, Snyder said she normally sees people and families asking about how to save money, budget and pay off credit cards.

“Today,” she said, “I am seeing a drastic shift in issues and desperation of families seeking our help. Now they are asking: ‘How will I keep my home? How will I feed my children? How am I going to pay my utilities or keep my car from being repossessed? Will I have to file for bankruptcy?'”

Other signs the counselors see that the economy is worsening in the diocesan area is the increase in the number of people applying for CC’s bankruptcy workshops – as much as an 85 percent increase in those attending one workshop this year as did last year – and the drop in people able to arrange debt management plans.

CC counselors can negotiate debt management plans for people with their creditors, be that power companies, credit card lenders or mortgage holders – so that large bills can be paid off in a manageable way. However more people no longer have the money to even pay the negotiated amounts. In 2007 (when the economy was growing), CC had a 28 percent increase in the number of debt management plans they negotiated. At the end of 2008, Lison said, that number was down 8 percent.

“People can’t pay (the negotiated amounts),” she said, so they don’t even bother to ask about management plans.

CC counselors are also seeing more people with unmanageable credit card debt. Lison says that some people have been treating the limits on their credit cards as if they were a source of income. And a newer phenomenon is the rise in loans from payday loan companies – which can charge unlimited amounts of interest.

“People don’t have just one payday loan, they have eight,” said Lison. “They had the one and they needed to pay that back and weren’t able to, so they went to the get enough to pay back the first one, so they went to another. And then you have eight.”

She noted that payday loan companies are now also based on the Internet and often aren’t even located in the United States, so they are not subject to federal or state regulations.

If you get into financial trouble, are laid off or incur a large medical expense, don’t try to ride out the storm, Lison said.

“Sooner is better than later,” she said. “If someone comes in earlier in the process, we have better luck. There are more options to work with.”

Many people are more comfortable with first going to an informational meeting held by CC, or one of their workshops – such as “Mastering the Money Maze”,” Credit Where Credit is Due,” or “Rent Smart.” Then they can set up a one-on-one with a counselor.

This typically isn’t just one meeting, but a regular schedule is set up, lasting an average of three months.

“Part of handling your money is a change you have to make. Those are habits you have to develop,” Lison said. “What do they say? ‘It takes 17 weeks to change a habit?’ The one time visit can be helpful, but really, if they’re looking at making changes they will be able to maintain, it’s a learning process and they need to continue on.”

CC also offers free tax preparation and checkbook balancing and management for those in need.

And while the present economy is challenging for everyone, there are also benefits that counselors have seen. These include: People focusing on family nights at home with board games or rented videos, family cooked meals instead of fast foods, and neighbors reconnecting with each other and helping with things like snow shoveling.

Catholic Charities offices

Central office: 1825 Riverside Drive, Green Bay.
Phone: (920)437-7531.
Outreach office in Antigo: (715)623-2024
Fox Cities: 214 E. Summer Street, Appleton.
Phone: (920)734-2601
Outreach office in Oshkosh: (920)235-6002
Manitowoc: 206 N. 8th Street.
Phone: (920)684-6651
Marinette: 844 Pierce Avenue, Suite 102
Phone: (715)735-7802
Outreach office in Niagara: (920)251-3879.

Related Posts

Scroll to Top