Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Good News For Agencies that Provide Housing Counseling!

Last Spring, terrible news came down for housing counseling agencies. Funding that they planned to use to counsel hundreds of thousands of potential homeowners was no longer available due to problems with the federal government.

This news was especially troublesome.

Housing is typically a person’s largest expense and investment. Housing counseling helps educate consumers and level the playing field between individuals and institutions that naturally have very different amounts of information and power. Housing counseling creates confidence for first-time homebuyers facing mortgage banks, tenants facing housing court, and homeowners facing foreclosure attorneys.

Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Buffalo, Inc. (CCCS Buffalo) fought hard to get funding restored. We see every day how effective this funding is to the people of Western New York, and were determined to make sure that our community was well served.

We have reason to celebrate now. As of last week, members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees filed the Conference Report (i.e., the final version) on the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and Related Agencies Appropriations for FY 2012. Included in the bill is a total of $125 million for HUD housing counseling assistance programs, with $80 million going to the National Foreclosure Mitigation Counseling Program; and $45 million for HUD’s comprehensive counseling programs. The Conference Report also directs HUD to award the comprehensive counseling funding within 120 days after enactment of the bill. The legislation is expected to be approved by the House and Senate, and signed by the President, by the end of this week.

Given that HUD’s comprehensive counseling funding for FY 2011 was zeroed-out, this represents a significant victory for agencies providing housing counseling---like Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Buffalo--and for the consumers that they serve.

We at CCCS Buffalo reached out to many elected officials for their help. Our thanks to all of those who responded. Your efforts made a difference. Special thanks to Congressmember Brian Higgins and
Congressmember Louise Slaughter for their special assistance.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Credit Scores!

There are a lot of misconceptions about credit scores. Some people believe everything from where they live to the color of their skin affects their score. Here's what influences scores, what doesn't, and what you can do to improve yours.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Small Business Assistance is Right Here

According to a study by the U.S. Small
Business Association, only 2/3 of all small business startups survive the first
two years and less than half make it to four years. Of all the new business
startups, 1/3 eventually turn a profit, 1/3 break even, and 1/3 never leave a
negative earnings scenario. With numbers like that, it's no wonder so many
would-be entrepreneurs think twice before taking the plunge.

In response to these statistics and to help
potential entrepreneurs overcome their fears, we at Consumer Credit Counseling
Service of Buffalo Inc. (CCCS Buffalo) have launched a Small Business
Counseling Program.

Often, small businesses have the same issues
as families – pressing financial demands, limited funds, and ineffective
planning or budgeting. Frequently, the
Small Business Owner does not know where to turn.

Small Business, across Western New York, now
has a resource to help them with their financial problems. We may have the next
Microsoft right here in our backyard but unless we as a community provide them
with the necessary tools, we will never know.

With trained and certified financial
counselors, CCCS Buffalo is making its service available to ALL Small Business
Owners across Western New York.

Specifically, CCCS Buffalo can help with the following:
Credit report review and credit scores
Assistance with disputing discrepancies on
credit reports,
Creation of a realistic budget
Cash Flow issues

Starting a business can certainly be a
challenge. CCCS Buffalo has combined our efforts with the Small Business
Development Centers of both Buffalo and Niagara, the IRS, the SBA and the Canisius
College Women’s Business Center to help budding entrepreneurs have the
resources and financial knowledge that they need to succeed. CCCS Buffalo
provides valuable services in the critical start up phase of a small business
as well as assistance throughout its’ various life cycles.

Consider George Vlagos. In August 2010, Vlagos
launched his small business, Oak Street Bootmakers. Hugely successful—less than
one year later, there is a six-week waiting list for a pair of Oak Street

As Vlagos told Inc. magazine, “There are
certain things you can do to increase the odds of success. You don't need an
MBA to make your small business profitable - just guts, determination, one-on-one
counseling and a little common sense advice.”

Needless to say, small business counseling is
the key.

For more information, on Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Buffalo, Inc., call 712-2060 or

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

New Models of Financial Literacy Training For Youth

Paul C. Atkinson, CEO and President of Consumer
Credit Counseling Service of Buffalo, Inc.

There is no doubt that parents play a critical role in teaching their children about the world of money. A recent Buffalo News article highlighting this importance confirms the message that we give every
day to the thousands of people who use our services. All too often, we see
adults whose spending habits create negative consequences in their lives. Many times, they express regret that they didn’t learn proper habits in their youth.

Most youth experience their first introduction to financial management at home. However, many low-income parents, themselves struggling to make ends meet, are ill-equipped to teach effective financial management skills to their children. Knowing this, Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Buffalo (CCCS Buffalo), launched a program to teach economically disadvantaged youth the skills of money management. Thus far over 200 youth have completed this program at Child & Adolescent Treatment Services’ three after-school sites and WNY United Against Drugs & Alcohol’s Summer Leadership Institute. Many more youth are being taught by CCCS Buffalo staff at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Buffalo, the Renaissance House and through a unique “Mommy & Me” program for women and families in transitional housing
situations at Cornerstone Manor.

The City of Buffalo is one of America’s poorest cities so we serve an economically distressed region. As noted in the National Foundation CC April 2010 report, minorities and youth are at greatest risk for financial instability, and in the greatest need of acquiring financial education. Low income individuals are also at great risk. "Research demonstrates the positive impact of financial literacy training for low-income individuals…”

We cannot simply leave the teaching of financial literacy to parents, but we also cannot rely solely on youth financial literacy programs. In a significant development, recent research has indicated that there is little evidence that traditional efforts to boost financial literacy help students make better decisions outside the classroom. Even as the financial-literacy movement gained steam over the past decade, scores have been falling on tests that measure how savvy students are about budgeting, credit cards, insurance and investments. A 2008 survey of college students conducted for the JumpStart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy found that students who'd had a financial literacy course in high school scored no better than those who hadn't.

A growing number of researchers and educators agree that a more radical approach is needed. They advocate starting financial education a lot earlier than high school, putting real money and spending decisions into kids' hands and talking openly about the emotions and social influences tied to how we spend. Based on this research, CCCS Buffalo has deliberately chosen to work with Kindergarten through 2nd graders and with 5th through 8th graders.

Without program intervention, Buffalo’s youth may be relegated to a life of poor financial choices. Our Financial Literacy Program stops this destructive cycle which not only harms local families, but decreases economic vitality in our region…a region which desperately needs financial health.