U.S. SENATE–U.S. Senators Steve Daines and Jon Tester are leading a call to include $700 million in funding for financial counseling to help families and small businesses avoid bankruptcy in the next coronavirus relief bill.
In a letter to Senate leadership, Daines and Tester, along with a group of their Senate colleagues, urged an expansion of the funding for non-profit credit counseling services to help consumers and small businesses taking on loads of unsecured debt to keep the lights on during the crisis.
“Counseling has proven to be an effective way for families to manage existing debt and avoid bankruptcy,” the Senators wrote. “…As housing counseling continues to be a critical resource for assisting consumers facing financial issues in the housing market and must be robustly funded, credit counseling presents another opportunity to help consumers and small businesses manage historically high levels of unsecured debt, including medical expenses, student loan debt, and credit card debt.”
As the pandemic takes a toll on the financial stability of many Montana families, the Senators are working to ensure Montanans can access advice on how to balance various debts including mortgage, car, utility, and student loan payments. The $700 million would ensure credit counseling services are available all across America, including rural areas, and would provide credit counseling agencies much-needed resources to onboard and train new counselors to accommodate the growing number of clients, and bolster technology needed to conduct more meetings remotely.
Due to growing financial uncertainty, the National Foundation of Credit Counseling projects its member agencies will serve between five to seven million consumers in the coming months and years.
“With another 4.4 million Americans filing for unemployment last week, and caps reached for small business loans, access to credit counseling now and after the pandemic subsides stands as possibly as one of the most critical programs to mitigate financial hardship,” the Senators continued. “If robustly funded, credit counseling agencies have the potential to serve as a resource for families and small businesses struggling with lost income, credit card bills, increased medical debt, or potential bankruptcy.”
To read the full letter, click HERE.