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Family Finds Financial Footing with Affordable Housing, Support

July 19, 2022 | Posted in Affordable Housing, Housing |

Iyanna Burns prides herself in being independent and self-sufficient. But in 2019, she had to swallow that pride a bit. Pregnant with her third child, Iyanna made the decision to remove herself from an unhealthy living situation and return to the north Austin area. It’s where she had grown up, and where she could find support from family members. Unable to find an apartment she could afford on what she made at a fast food restaurant, Iyanna took her brother up on his offer to move in with his family.

“There were three ­– and then four of us packed into one bedroom – little toys, little shoes, stuff everywhere,“ said Iyanna. “And, there was never a moment of peace or privacy. I needed that.”

Iyanna says the worst part was having to rely on someone to help her with the kids she gave birth to. She recalls how embarrassed she was when one of her boys spilled paint, leaving a big, permanent stain on the carpet – carpet she could not afford to replace.

In the summer of 2020, Iyanna started looking again for an apartment she could afford. She called 2-1-1 and learned about Foundation Communities. She went through the application process, and weeks later, she received a call that her family was approved for an apartment at Lakeline Station.

“When I came here to Lakeline Station, I was blown away. The apartments were really, really nice apartments – so spacious and in a quiet community,” said Iyanna.

Iyanna says she was excited, but also scared. She was about to be raising her children by herself for the first time. Fortunately, as part of Foundation Communities’ Children’s HOME Initiative, she received free parental support. Iyanna embraced the financial coaching classes even more as she had compiled quite a bit of debt.

Iyanna said, “I made up my mind I was going to do everything they asked me to do, and it paid off.”

She was able to buy a newer car, one with air conditioning that works! Now, she is virtually debt-free. Her goal now is to purchase a home for her family. Iyanna says it wouldn’t have been possible without affordable housing and support services from Foundation Communities.

Iyanna says in the past, she had always been reluctant to ask for help because she was afraid of what people might think of her. Now, she believes what really counts is what you do with the help you receive. Click on the video below to watch her tell her story at a recent housing expansion event.

Foundation Communities Hosts Rally for 2022 Affordable Housing Bonds Campaign

July 21, 2022 | Posted in Affordable Housing, Housing, In the News |

On July 21, 2022, Foundation Communities a broad coalition of advocates, affordable housing providers and elected leaders gathered at The Jordan at Mueller to call for a bold investment in housing affordability in Austin. The coalition is urging Council to place an affordable housing bond of at least $300 million on the November 2022 ballot to expand affordable housing opportunities so low and moderate income families can continue to live in Austin. These bonds support the creation of affordable rental units, expansion of affordable homeownership opportunities, provision of home repair services to vulnerable homeowners, and the strategic acquisition of properties to produce more housing for those with lower incomes.
Click below to watch video of the entire rally.

Report Tallies Up Another Successful Tax Filing Season for Prosper Tax Help

July 19, 2022 | Posted in Tax Services, Financial Stability, Volunteer |

During the 2022 Tax Filing Season, almost 11,000 people had their tax returns filed by our hardworking team of certified IRS tax preparers. That includes 17,582 hours donated by 315 Prosper Tax Help volunteers. We recovered more than $24 million in refunds for our Central Texas neighbors, most of whom are making low-to-moderate incomes. Most of that refund total came from Earned Income Tax Credits and Child Tax Credits.

We are incredibly grateful to the volunteers and government and non-profit partners who helped us complete another successful tax filing season You can learn much more about the results from Foundation Communities’ 18th year providing free tax services by clicking on the 2022 Filing Season Summary below.

Jewel Arrington Shines in the Financial Wellness Spotlight for July

July 1, 2022 | Posted in Financial Stability, Volunteer |

This month we would like to honor and celebrate our most seasoned volunteer Financial Coach, Jewel Arrington! Jewel has been a Financial Coach with the Financial Wellness program for 14 years. She brings incredible expertise, empathy, creativity and dedication to her role as a financial coach. Jewel is also currently the Chair of Foundation Communities’ Board of Directors. The Financial Wellness team is honored to work alongside her and grateful that we can offer our clients the opportunity to meet with such a wonderful coach!  

We asked Jewel how she got involved in the Financial Coaching program: 

“Several years ago I received an email from the Austin Financial Planning Association recruiting volunteers for FC’s financial coaching program. I was a new financial planner, interested in working with low and middle income people, so I thought the coaching program might be a good fit. I discovered that I enjoy the coaching approach to helping people, and I like working with people who have little access to traditional financial advice.” 

Why she believes Financial Coaching is important: 

“Financial coaching is important because it helps people who have the least access to financial advice find their way to financial stability from wherever they may be starting. It can provide support at a time of financial crisis, help overcome fear and shame related to financial problems, encourage a first step toward a goal, or provide accountability while working toward long term financial goals. Financial coaching doesn’t eliminate the hard work required to address financial problems, but it can reduce the suffering involved.” 

 Her favorite piece of financial advice: 

“My favorite piece of advice applies to many situations: start where you are and focus on the things you can control. As for specific financial advice, align your spending with your values and priorities. A budget is a way of making sure that you are spending your money on the things that matter most to you.” 

And what she likes to do outside of being a Financial Coach: 

“I enjoy being outside, and I go to Lady Bird Lake as often as possible. I love being with my family, which now includes a granddaughter in addition to my husband, daughter, daughter-in-law, and son. I love to read, and I enjoy doing taxes as a volunteer with FC’s tax help program.” 

Thank you, Jewel, for all that you do!  

[Click here to schedule an appointment with a Financial Coach] 

Feel free to email [email protected] if you have any questions about our program. 

 

Foundation Communities Awarded $6 million in Federal Funding for New Affordable Housing

June 24, 2022 | Posted in Affordable Housing, Housing |

Foundation Communities has taken another big step toward reaching our current goal for expanding affordable housing in Austin. This week, we were awarded $6 million from the Capital Magnet Fund administered by the U.S. Treasury Department’s Community Development Financial Institutions Fund (CDFI Fund). Foundation Communities is one of 59 organizations nationwide that will receive a total of $336.4 million for development of affordable housing and community facilities serving low-income individuals, families and communities.

The $6 million will help us raise the $30 million needed to build or complete eight new affordable apartment communities all over Austin. You can learn more about these future communities here. “We are excited that this award from the Treasury Department moves us closer to welcoming home more than 2,000 residents, many of whom will come directly out of homelessness,” said Foundation Communities Executive Director Walter Moreau. “This funding comes at a critical time when our waiting lists for affordable housing are longer than ever.”

The new affordable apartments Foundation Communities is planning to build will be for low-income families or single adults. Like the other 23 properties we already own and manage in Austin, residents will benefit from below market rate rental prices, as well as an array of support services designed to help them in the areas of education, financial wellness and health.

Payday loans: How they work, knowing your rights, and knowing the alternatives

June 12, 2022 | Posted in Financial Stability |

What is a payday loan?

  • *  A short-term, high-cost loan usually available at a storefront or online 
  • *  Average payday loan interest rate in Texas is 660% (Texas does not cap interest or fees) 
  • *  To repay the loan: write a post-dated check for the full balance or provide the lender with ACH authorization (authorization to electronically debit the funds).  
  • *  If you don’t repay the loan: lender can cash the check or withdraw money from your account.  

 

Know your rights: 

 

Alternatives to payday loans:

  • *  Non-profit organizations, employers, or community groups sometimes offer advances or emergency credit 
  • *  Banks or credit unions may offer less expensive alternatives or a credit card may be an option 
  • *  You may be able to negotiate with the creditor or debt collector for the bill you owe and set up a smaller repayment plan 

 

If you find yourself stuck in a payday loan, there are options available: 

Fresh Start Loan

    • *  Prosper Financial Wellness offers a Fresh Start Loan to you get out of predatory loans such as payday and title loans. 
    • *  This flexible loan never charges extra fees. In fact, it offers discounts if borrowers are able to pay back the loan early. Fresh Start also offers APRs way below typical payday and title loans, regardless of the borrower’s credit score. 
    • *  It reports to all three main credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion 
    • *  To apply, schedule an appointment with a Financial Coach, by visiting ProsperFinancialWellness.org or calling 737-717-4000. 
    • You may qualify if you: 
    • *  Are working toward goals with a Financial Coach Currently have Payday and/or Title loans with a total balance up to $1,000 
    • *  Have a valid Social Security Number 
    • *  Have a checking account that you use regularly 
    • *  Have online banking set up with your bank or credit union (a Financial Coach can help set this up) 
    • *  Have regular take-home pay

 

Medical Bill Debt and Collections

May 3, 2022 | Posted in Financial Stability, Health |

Medical bills can be confusing and overwhelming and often come at a time when you’re already in distress. If this sounds like you or a loved one, below is information that can help currently and in the future.

Know Your Rights and Protections

  • No Surprises Act
o   You should not receive unexpected bills for emergency services received from a health care provider or facility that you didn’t know was out-of-network until you were billed.
o   If you don’t have health insurance or if you pay for care without using your health insurance, your provider must give you an estimate of how much your care will cost. After, if the billed amount is $400 or more above the estimate, you may be able to dispute the charges through the patient-provider dispute resolution process.
o   Submit a complaint by calling (800) 985-3059 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET.

 

  • Financial Assistance Options
o   Nonprofit hospitals are required by law to offer financial assistance programs, and many other providers are willing to work out payment arrangements.
o   Even if your bill is past due and you’re being contacted by a debt collector, you can ask to pause collections while you seek financial help through the nonprofit hospital’s program.

 

  • Debt Collectors

 

  • Credit Report
o   Debt collectors are not permitted to report a medical bill to the credit reporting companies without trying to collect the debt from you first.
o   Beginning July 1, 2022, paid medical bills will no longer be included on credit reports. Unpaid bills will be reported only if they have remained unpaid for at least 12 months.

 

  • Avoid Scammers
o   Don’t pay a person or a service who promises to keep medical bills off your credit report or to protect you from unexpected out-of-network medical costs.

 

  • Navigating Medical Debt – Informational Webinar

o    https://raisetexas.org/action/resources/medical_debt/ (email & zip code required)

For health insurance enrollment support through Foundation Communities, call 512-381-4520 today!

If you would like to talk to a Financial Coach about any financial plans call our Prosper Centers at 737-717-4000 or visit our web site at ProsperFinancialWellness.org.

 

A Mother’s Perseverance Pays Off through Laurel Creek

April 25, 2022 | Posted in Affordable Housing, Housing |

At the March 30th ribbon cutting ceremony for Laurel Creek Apartments, a resident opened her speech
with these powerful words:

“My name is Evelyn Chase…and I am not a victim. I am a survivor.”

Evelyn is not shy about detailing the abuse she has endured. It caused her to run away from home as a teenager. And, as a mother of three, she escaped twice from her common-law husband due to alleged abuse. Evelyn says they always believed things would get better if they just didn’t give up.

“We focused on turning our pain into perseverance,” said Evelyn. “I never allow my pain to dictate my future.”

In 2019, Evelyn began looking for housing she could afford for her family. It was very difficult as she was living on disability – lupus and cancer have prevented her from holding a steady job. The family bounced around between the homes of relatives and friends, an experience that offered no privacy or stability.

Evelyn never stopped looking for housing. After enduring years of rejection from apartment managers who called her a “liability” and getting on numerous waiting lists, in August of 2021, Evelyn and her family moved into the Austin Women and Children’s Shelter. It was another temporary move, not a home. Finally, it happened. Evelyn received a call from a manager at Laurel Creek who said they had been tentatively approved for an apartment in the complex. She and her kids were elated.

“After so many doors closed in our faces, Laurel Creek opened their doors,” said Evelyn. “Our joy went to the next level when we came here to view the complex. We didn’t know we would be moving into a brand new apartment in a beautiful community.”

The most emotional moment of the speech came when Evelyn held up the keychain and keys she was given as her family moved in.

She said, “…and the chain says, welcome home. And, we felt at home. Thank you.”

Evelyn concluded by thanking Foundation Communities for giving her family a fresh start. She also said they’re looking forward to accessing support services at Laurel Creek, including the Learning Center and nursing station. Evelyn said she wants to volunteer with the Healthy Food Pantry program so she can give back to the community.

Debt Collection Rule Changes You Should Know

March 5, 2022 | Posted in Financial Stability |

On November 30, 2021, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s new Debt Collection Rule became effective. Here are key points to know about the new rule:

What is a debt collection validation notice?

When a debt collector first communicates with you, they are required to provide certain information about the debt. This is called a validation notice. It will be sent in writing or electronically and will generally include:
  • Name and mailing information of the debt collector
  • Name of the creditor to whom the debt is owed
  • Account number (if any) associated with the debt
  • Current amount of the debt that reflects interest, fees, payments, and credits
  • Information about your debt collection rights including how to dispute the debt

The notice allows you to determine whether the information about your debt is correct. The notice must include a “tear-off” form which you can send back to the debt collector to dispute the debt.

 

How can a debt collector contact me?

Under the Debt Collection Rule, collectors cannot call:

  • More than 7 times in a 7-day period, or
  • Within 7 days of having a phone conversation with you about the debt

If a debt collector contacts you on social media:

  • The message must be private
  • They must identify themselves as debt collectors
  • They must provide a way for you to opt out of their communications

 

When can a debt collector report my debt to a credit reporting agency?

Before reporting a debt to a credit reporting agency, the collector must have

  • Spoken to you on the phone or in person about the debt
  • Or have mailed or delivered the notice electronically and waited 14 days to make sure it was delivered

Once you receive the validation notice, that generally means that they have notified you according to the law and they can begin reporting to credit reporting agencies.

For more information about how to check your credit reports for accuracy and/or how to dispute a claim, the CFPB is a great resource! You can also schedule an appointment with one of our Financial Coaches who can walk you through the process and provide any necessary support. Call 737-717-4000 or visit ProsperFinancialWellness.org to schedule your appointment.

 

¡5 Razones por las cuales deberías presentar tus impuestos con Ayuda de Impuestos Austin!  

February 21, 2022 | Posted in Tax Services |

No te preocupes esta temporada de impuestos. ¡Foundation Communities puede ayudarte a maximizar tu reembolso de forma gratuita!

¿Por qué deberías presentar con Foundation Communities este año? Aquí hay cinco razones por cual deberías usar nuestra asistencia gratuita para la presentación de impuestos en el 2022.

  1. Es gratis y los preparadores de pago son caros.

El costo promedio de preparación profesional de impuestos es entre $159 a $273. ¡Este es el dinero que sale de tu reembolso de impuestos! Es más, algunos preparadores evitan revelar sus costos hasta el final de la sesión. Nuestros servicios son 100% gratis.

Como un recurso gratuito de preparación de impuestos de la comunidad, nuestro objetivo es ayudar a las personas en el centro de Texas con ingresos bajos a moderados a acceder a una preparación de impuestos de alta calidad sin costo alguno. Para calificar para nuestros servicios, las personas deben ganar menos de $50,000 al año y los hogares de 2 a 4 gentes deben ganar menos de $75,000 al año (el límite de ingresos aumenta en $5,000 por cada miembro adicional de la familia).

  1. ¡Nuestro personal está certificado por el IRS!

Los preparadores de impuestos de Foundation Communities es certificado cada año por el IRS a través de un riguroso proceso de pruebas administradas por la agencia. Todas las declaraciones de impuestos siempre son revisadas por un revisor de calidad. Nuestro personal certificado por el IRS está listo para ayudarte a aumentar tus ganancias esta temporada de impuestos.

  1. Nuestro personal está comprometido a ayudarte.

Como una organización sin fines de lucro, no tenemos ningún motivo de ganancia. Nuestro objetivo es ofrecer excelentes servicios de preparación de impuestos y maximizar tu reembolso de impuestos.

  1. Puedes conseguir más que simplemente ayuda de presentación de impuestos.

Con el fin de ayudar a construir caminos hacia el bienestar financiero, conectamos a los clientes con recursos internos para ayudarles a alcanzar sus objetivos financieros. En nuestros Centros Prósperos, también puede acceder entrenamiento financiero gratuito, servicios de apoyo a la universidad e inscripción en seguros médicos.

  1. ¡Es muy fácil!

¡El programa Ayuda de Impuestos Austin de Foundation Communities ayuda a miles de personas a maximizar sus reembolsos de impuestos cada año! ¡Ahora estamos abiertos para la preparación de impuestos en persona, visita nuestra página de citas o llame al 2-1-1 para programar una cita GRATUITA hoy!