Showing posts from 2022

One Time Federal Student Loan Debt Relief Application is Open!

  The Application for the one time Federal Student Loan Debt Relief is open to Federal Student Loan Borrowers! Visit   to fill out the quick simple form today. You don't need your FSA ID log in. You will simply fill out your contact information, date of birth and social security number. What Is Federal Student Loan Debt Relief? It’s a program that provides eligible borrowers with full or partial discharge of loans up to $20,000 to Federal Pell Grant recipients and up to $10,000 to non-Pell Grant recipients. Who Qualifies? Individuals who made less than $125,000 in 2021 or 2020 Families that made less than $250,000 in 2021 or 2020 If you filed federal taxes, your income requirements are based on your adjusted gross income (AGI), which tends to be lower than your total income. Your AGI can be found on line 11 of the IRS Form 1040. How It Works Apply today (but no later than Dec. 31, 2023). We’ll determine your eligibility and will conta

Student Loan Forgiveness Updates

CCCS Announces Major Updates to New Student Loan Forgiveness Program CCCS Operates the Only Local Student Loan Counseling Program Available in WNY Region Consumer Credit Counseling Service (CCCS) today announced more updates in the world of Student Loans and Loan Forgiveness. Last month, CCCS detailed major, long awaited changes to student loan forgiveness, the most important of which was: For those earning less than $125,000 a year—or couples with incomes under $250,000--up to $10,000 in federal student loan debt will be forgiven . If individuals used Pell grants to attend college (which are reserved for students with greatest financial need), up to $20,000 in federal student loan debt will be forgiven.  This came on the heels of the overhaul of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness ( PSLF ) Program, where significant changes enabled hundreds of thousands of loan recipients to access loan forgiveness.   Launched in 2007, the PSLF was designed to encourage colleg

Credit Freezes Help Protect Your Identity

What is a Credit Freeze? A credit freeze, a.k.a. security freeze, restricts access to your credit file and prevents you (or others) from being able to open any new credit accounts while the freeze is in place.  A credit freeze will not prevent your existing creditors from viewing your credit reports, but it will block the release of them to new/potential creditors.  For example, if a cybercriminal obtained access to your social security number or other personal information and tried to apply for a loan in your name while your credit was frozen, the account would not be able to be opened. Why Should I Freeze My Credit? Helps protect your identity by reducing the chance that someone could fraudulently open an account in your name Gives you peace of mind knowing that your credit reports are secure It’s free, and you can do it yourself at any time Does not impact your credit score or your ability to use existing credit accounts How do I Freeze my Credit? You can place a temporary or perman

Details of President Biden’s New Student Loan Forgiveness Program; Announces Final Extension to Student Loan Repayment Program

  Millions of Americans have waited eagerly over these past two and a half years for student loan forgiveness. This week, President Biden issued the first of his student loan forgiveness plans. For those earning less than $125,000 a year—or couples with incomes under $250,000--up to $10,000 in federal student loan debt will be forgiven . If individuals used Pell grants to attend college (which are reserved for students with greatest financial need), up to $20,000 in federal student loan debt will be forgiven.   President Biden also this week officially extended the “ student loan payment pause” until December 31 st , 2022. Interest rates will remain at 0% until repayments start in January 2023. Biden states that this will be the last extension for student loan payments.   Mandatory student loan payments as well as interest accrual have been “on pause” since March 13, 2020, the beginning of the pandemic. 98.8% of borrowers did not make payments during this time period but those wh

Summer Vacation on a Budget

Still want to travel this summer, but wondering how you can make it work in these tough financial times?  Despite the quickly rising costs for food, transportation, etc., there are ways to cut costs without cancelling your travel plans completely.  Here are some tips and suggestions: Choose a less expensive destination Take fewer trips or reduce the duration Choose a location with a shorter distance where you can drive rather than fly Sign up for price alerts on travel websites - shop around and check travel prices then book when rates are lowest Take a close to home weekend getaway Consider trying a staycation Bring groceries and snacks with you and meal plan/prep rather than going to a restaurant for every meal Try some cheaper (or even FREE) vacation activities such as local libraries, museums, art galleries, state or national parks, walking tours, etc. Stay at an Airbnb, bed and breakfast, or with family or friends instead of booking an expensive hotel Research all inclusive packag

A New Approach to Tackling Debt is Needed

  At Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Buffalo (CCCS), we are encouraged to see recent media attention highlighting the dubious and predatory practices of local debt collection companies. The New York State Attorney General herself visited Western New York last month to call for increased regulation of the debt collection industry. It is extremely heartening to see how she is standing up for New York residents who are often victimized (sometimes repeatedly) by dodgy businesses with underhanded motives. CCCS has sought reform for many years — and heard hundreds of tragic horror stories — yet as critical as it is, we have been unable to attract the proper attention or receive the necessary support for this issue until now. Debt collection companies are commonly problematic — in certain need of increased control — but the issue is much larger than just that. The average person has little understanding of the world of debt, credit and credit repair. It is no wonder that an entire world

The Importance of Budgeting

How many times have you tried to create a budget and stick to it?  It’s something that’s so difficult for so many people, so it can be tempting to stop even trying.  But before you give up… know that budgeting can be critically important to ensure your financial health and stability.  There are concrete ways to make a difficult thing more manageable (and maybe even fun)! Why is budgeting so important? Tracking your expenses helps you control your spending, and save more money.   When you manage your finances without a budget, there really isn’t anything preventing you from spending beyond your means.  You may have a general idea about how much money you spend on certain things, but without actual (accurate) numbers, it’s easy to let your spending habits get out of control.  When you live on a budget, it’s much easier to see where you may be frivolously overspending, and when you can see waste that can be eliminated, you now have an ability to put that “extra” money into savings that yo

Dealing with Inflation

As most of us are well aware, trips to the grocery store and the gas pump are emptying our pockets and draining our bank accounts more than ever before… People talk about “inflation” all the time, but what does that really mean?  In plain terms, inflation simply refers to the increase in prices over time.  The inflation rate is a measure of how quickly those prices go up.   When the inflation rate is high, consumers lose purchasing power, meaning your dollar won’t go as far tomorrow as it did today.  The current annual inflation rate for the United States is 8.6%, up from 7% in 2021 – the largest annual increase since December 1981.  It averaged 3.27% from 1914 to 2022, reaching an all-time high of 23.7% in June 1920, and a record low of -15.8% in June 1921. Inflation can have a serious impact on everyday expenses.  Energy prices have risen 34.6% and food costs are up 10.1%, but most of us likely have not seen wage increases to keep up with those rising costs.  So how can we manage our

Loan Cancellation for Student Loan Borrowers Who Attended Corinthian Colleges

Today, the U.S. Department of Education announced the cancellation of $5.8 billion in federal student loans for 560,000 individuals who borrowed to attend schools owned by Corinthian Colleges, the for-profit college conglomerate that is now defunct. Corinthian was a notorious repeat offender that defrauded its students and the public over many years. This loan cancellation would not have been possible without the tenacity of so many individual student loan borrowers harmed by Corinthian’s tactics. Many of them came forward to law enforcement agencies and regulators to detail systemic abuses. Others even had the courage to make their stories public to urge government authorities to act, rather than sitting on the sidelines. Over the last decade, I had the opportunity to speak with many of them to learn about Corinthian’s conduct. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and state attorney general actively pursued Corinthian for its misconduct. The CFPB filed a lawsuit in 2014, obt

Robby's Budgeting Tips!

 From time to time we like to share some of our staff's suggestions on the best ways to manage your budget. Today we hear from Robby Dunn, Vice President of Counseling here at CCCS of Buffalo! Robby’s Five Financial Budgeting Tips Create a balanced budget - This may seem like very simple personal financial advice, but the road to recovery from debt or the accumulation of savings begins with a balanced budget. This means that you have more money coming in than that is going out every month. Track your income and expenses for 30 days and find out if your budget is balanced!   Consider viewing savings as an expense – Is savings an expense? Many individuals may argue that it is not as it is not necessary to save at all times, or every month. But, if you are saving, what are you putting those funds aside for? Home and Auto repairs? Vacation and gifts? Medical expenses? Those all sound like future expenses to us, and importan

Should I Get a Credit Card?

Opting for a new credit card is a decision that will impact your financial health in one way or another, so it should come with a careful analysis of your personal financial spending habits and goals.  Credit cards can be useful when they are used responsibly, but they can also be harmful if proper care is not taken to use them only when it would make sense to do so. When does getting a credit card make sense? If you want to build or rebuild credit history.   Without sufficient credit history, lenders will likely see you as a higher risk.  If you have limited or no credit, consider a secured card.  To build or rebuild credit with a credit card, it's important to make 100% of your payments on time 100% of the time, and to keep your credit utilization ratio low.  The general recommendation is under around 30%, but people with high credit scores tend to keep it closer to around 10%. If you need help financing a purchase or paying off debt.   Some credit cards offer introductory period

Most Medical Debt to Be Removed from Credit Reports; Student Loan Repayments Extended Until August 31st

  CCCS Announces that Most Medical Debt to Be Removed from Credit Reports;  Student Loan Repayments Extended Until August 31 st   In a recent and welcomed policy shift, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion announced that nearly 70% of current medical debt will be removed from credit reports, beginning this summer. Millions of Americans are saddled with medical debt and the problem continues to grow. Studies from 2021 found that 37% of Americans had medical debt, while 23% did not currently have medical debt but had it in the past. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) estimates that at this moment, some $88 billion in medical bills sits on 43 million credit reports. Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion Medical maintain reports on more than 200 million people in the U.S. Often, medical bills can be exorbitant and end up on credit reports, ruining credit scores and preventing people from accessing mortgages, car loans and even employment. Many of these people have paid their

Student Loan Payment Pause Extended Through Aug. 31, 2022

On April 6, 2022, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) extended the student loan payment pause through Aug. 31, 2022. The pause includes the following relief measures for eligible federal loans: ·          a suspension of loan payments ·          a 0% interest rate ·          stopped collections on defaulted loans Here are four steps to make sure you’re prepared for student loan payments to resume: ·          Update your contact information in your profile on your  loan servicer ’s website and in your profile . ·          Review your auto-debit enrollment or sign up for the first time. To do so, log in to your loan servicer’s website or contact your loan servicer directly. ·          Check out  Loan Simulator  to find a repayment plan that meets your needs and goals or to decide whether to consolidate. ·          Consider applying for an  income-driven repayment (IDR) plan . An IDR plan can make your payments more affordable, depending on your income

Vacationing on a Budget!

  Many individuals have varying financial goals, but often times an annual vacation or trip with family top the list of most.   Of course they don’t just happen with the snap of a finger. Vacations take financial planning, budgeting, savings, and research and creativity for finding affordable transportation, accommodations, and activities upon arrival. Vacations are well-deserved treats that are the result of hard work, and with the right preparation you should be able to enjoy it to the fullest without financial distress before, during, or after. First and foremost planning for a vacation should start with setting an overall budget for the trip. This will allow to you determine how much you need to start systematically saving, ideally for several months up to a year in advance of the trip depending on the anticipated cost. The total cost can be the most difficult task to accurately estimate as you have to account for all expenses during your vacation, including and not limited to;

*ACTION REQUIRED* Free Credit Monitoring from Equifax Data Breach Settlement

  In September 2017, Equifax announced a data breach that exposed the personal information of 147 million people.   A settlement has now been reached and finalized, which will include up to $425 million to help affected individuals to receive free credit monitoring services, help recovering from identity theft that may have occurred, and even cash reimbursements for certain situations.   If you were affected by the breach, you are eligible for at least 4 years of FREE credit monitoring  from all three credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion – and up to 6 more years from Equifax, for a total of 10 years.   The settlement administrator recently began sending emails and letters to people who filed a valid claim requesting these monitoring services.   *ACTION IS REQUIRED!*   Eligible claimants will get free membership in Experian IdentityWorks℠ for four years. This service is free for you. You do not need to provide any payment information to enroll, an

VITA - Free Tax Preparation Services in Niagara County

CCCS Buffalo has officially launched our 8th year of providing free tax preparation services in Niagara County through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. If your 2021 income was $57,000 or less, you can have your  federal and state taxes e-filed for FREE! Due to COVID-19 safety precautions, the service this year will function similar to last year's, in a drop-off/virtual manner, to minimize exposure by limiting face-to-face interactions.  Masks are required. Individuals will visit one of our two sites to speak with a trained VITA tax volunteer for a short time, drop off their documents, and provide identification and completed intake/consent forms.  Volunteers will conduct the intake process by scanning and uploading documents to secure tax software, then prepare the tax returns offsite/remotely.  Taxpayers will then come back to the physical site 1-2 weeks after their initial appointment to finalize their return, sign off on the e-filing, and obtain a paper copy

NYS Homeowner Assistance Fund (HAF) is Now Available!

The NYS Homeowner Assistance Fund (HAF) is a federally funded program to help support homeowners who experienced financial hardship (loss of income or increased living expenses) as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.  HAF assistance is customized to the applicant's individual situation and may involve free housing counseling, legal services, negotiations with a mortgage servicer, and possibly even financial assistance to cover past and future housing related payments, including water and sewage charges. Applications are now being accepted for this $539 million fund for eligible homeowners at risk of default, foreclosure, or displacement. Are you a homeowner who is: Behind or in forbearance on your mortgage? In default on a reverse mortgage? Behind on your property taxes, water, or sewage bills? Behind on monthly maintenance charges for your co-op or condo? Behind on chattel loans, retail installment contracts, lot rent, and/or other types of home purchase loans? You may be eligible