When people lack credit and need quick cash to make ends meet, they often end up turning to sources like payday lenders, which can lead to a cycle of debt that can be hard to escape.
And despite how common this situation is, many who are trapped in it feel alone and ashamed. The reality, says public interest attorney Maeve Elise Brown, is that “it only takes one small problem to destroy your credit.” And it might not even be the individual’s fault – a creditor might erroneously post a missed payment that then becomes difficult to rectify.
Moreover, lower income individuals are increasingly working at jobs where their income fluctuates over the course of the year. Cash flow problems are common among people who work in the service sector and other industries. A recent study of 32 million employees found that 80 percent of individuals whose incomes are below the federal poverty line saw their pay fluctuate by more than 10 percent in a single quarter.
Brown is the founder and executive director of Housing and Economic Rights Advocates (HERA), a California not-for-profit legal service that helps people with financial concerns. HERA has just launched a new website, money-happy.org, that helps people find the different kinds of reputable and affordable loans that might be available to them when they’re vulnerable and in need of cash.
What sets it apart from other digital services is that HERA vets all the providers that the site connects people with and continually ensures that the site is giving people correct and updated information.
The digital tool connects people with sources specific to mortgages, credit cards, medical bills, transportation and auto repair, rent and utilities, and education, as well as personal loans, and is refined by geographic area. There are also resources for people with small businesses.
Brown cautions that in some areas (like home repairs and medical bills), resources are quite limited. But the site can navigate people to a variety of reliable programs that they might not be aware of because they have no idea where to look. Keep Your Home California, for example, is a program that has helped nearly 70,000 homeowners avoid foreclosure.
HERA continues to add resources county by county, and Spanish, Filipino, and Chinese versions of the site will be available in January. Korean, Russian, and Vietnamese will eventually be added as well.