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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!

Five Reasons to File Your Taxes with Prosper Tax Help!

February 21, 2022 | Posted in Tax Services, Financial Stability |

Don’t stress this tax season. Foundation Communities can help you maximize your refund free of charge! Why should you file with Foundation Communities this year? Here are the top five reasons to use our free tax filing assistance.

1. It’s free!

The average cost of professional tax preparation ranges from $159 to $273. This is money that comes out of your tax refund! Some paid preparers avoid disclosing their fees until the end of the session.

As a free community tax preparation resource, our goal is to help people in Central Texas with lower incomes access high-quality tax preparation at no cost. To qualify for our services, individuals must earn less than $50,000/year and households of 2-4 must earn less than $75,000/year (the income limit increases by $5,000 for each additional family member).

2. Our staff is IRS Certified.

Foundation Communities tax preparers are trained in tax law and certified each year by the IRS through a rigorous testing process, and tax returns are always reviewed by a quality reviewer. Our IRS-certified team is ready to help you boost your earnings this tax season.

3. Our staff is committed to helping you.

As a non-profit organization, we have no profit motive. We are not out to collect fees; our goal is to provide you with excellent tax prep services and the maximum refund possible. You will never be charged for our services!

4. You can get more than just great free tax filing help.

In order to help build pathways to financial wellness, we connect clients with internal resources to help them achieve their financial goals. At our Prosper Centers, you can also access free financial coaching, college support services, and health insurance enrollment.

5. It’s easy!

The Prosper Tax Help program at Foundation Communities helps thousands of people maximize their tax refunds every year! We are now open for in-person tax prep, you can schedule an appointment online or call 2-1-1 to schedule a FREE appointment today!

Retiree “Neighbors Up” with Health Food Pantries

February 21, 2022 | Posted in Healthy Initiatives, Get Involved, Volunteer |

Mary Sapp could be spending lots of time visiting loved ones, doing hobbies or just relaxing. But, that’s not who she is. The retired advocate for the aging volunteers with Foundation Communities support services programs. Ten years ago, Mary started with Financial Coaching. She later began working with students in the ESL program. Now, at the active age of 76, Mary volunteers twice every month, working with our Healthy Food Pantry program at Sierra Ridge. In fact, she was one of the program’s first volunteers.

“A good part of my life, I’ve been concerned and committed to improving the quality of life of individuals in many different ways,” said Mary. “Foundation Communities provided me an opportunity to continue living out my values in ways that are important to me.”

When the pandemic struck in 2020, the Food Pantries saw an explosion of activity as they became a lifeline for people who had lost their jobs. Mary and other volunteers kept showing up, honoring their commitments to the program. Mary says it’s because she enjoys serving the clients and working with the program’s staff. She also appreciates Foundation Communities’ model of creating affordable communities that offer a variety of support services.

“That’s what happens at Foundation Communities,” said Mary. “Yes, it’s about housing, but it’s also about holistically caring for individuals and helping them be more successful.”

Foundation Communities is eternally grateful to volunteers like Mary, and the many residents who help us make our 26 affordable communities and our financial services centers all over Austin and North Texas places where their neighbors can find success and quality of life. You can explore volunteer opportunities with Foundation Communities at foundcom.org/volunteer.

In the next two weeks, we will be featuring some of those great people as part of our “Neighbor Up, Austin” campaign for Amplify Austin, March 2-3. We hope you’ll neighbor up and help us raise money for our support services programs on our Amplify Austin page at https://www.amplifyatx.org/organizations/foundation-communities.

Prosper Tax Help Taking the Stress out of Tax Season

February 21, 2022 | Posted in Tax Services, Financial Stability |

The 2022 tax filing season is here, and while more Central Texans may be looking forward to receiving a tax refund, they may also be having nightmares about forms, deductions and credits. For more than 15 years, thousands of Central Texans have trusted Foundation Communities to provide free tax preparation. This year, we will have six tax help locations open in Austin and Round Rock to help our neighbors “maximize their refund and minimize their stress.” All centers will follow recommended masking and social distancing protocols.

With the expanded Child Tax Credit, families with eligible dependents can receive up to $3,600 per child when they file a 2021 tax return. Our team of IRS-certified tax preparers is trained to help them get their maximum refund and all the tax credits they are eligible for. Eligibility for our free services is income based: up to $50,000 for a single filer, $75,000 for households of 2-4 people, and an additional $5,000 for each additional household member. Our tax services are available by appointment only. Appointments can be scheduled at prospertaxhelp.org or by calling 211.

Ahorra tiempo al entregar tus documentos de impuestos en un Centro Próspero

February 15, 2022 | Posted in Tax Services, Financial Stability |

¿Por qué pasar horas declarando impuestos? Estás ocupado, ¡lo entendemos! Ahorra tiempo al entregar tus documentos de impuestos en un Centro Próspero. ¡Nuestro Programa de Drop Off es una forma confidencial y segura de presentar tus impuestos!

Así es como funciona:
• Completas una entrevista de admisión y escaneas tus documentos de forma segura en el sitio
• Nuestros preparadores de impuestos certificados por el IRS prepararán y revisarán tu declaración para asegurar la mayor exactitud
• Cuando tu declaración de impuestos esté lista para revisar, volverás a cualquier centro de impuestos para revisar y presentar tu declaración con el IRS

Para ayudarnos a preparar tus impuestos, por favor asegúrate de traer todos los documentos de impuestos a la entrevista de admisión. No podemos preparar tu declaración si olvidas alguno de estos documentos. Si no estás seguro qué traer a la entrevista de admisión, hicimos una lista para ayudarte.

Esto es lo que necesita traer:
• Identificación con fotografía
• Tarjeta(s) de Seguridad Social o carta(s) ITIN para todos en la declaración
• Todos los documentos fiscales (por ejemplo, W-2, 1099, 1095-A)
• Información bancaria (números de ruta y cuenta)
• Cualquier registro personal de gastos (educación, atención médica, cuidado infantil, donaciones, etc.)
** Si está casado y la presentación es conjunta, ambos conyugues deben estar presente

¡Los Centros Prósperos ahora están abiertos para servicios en persona! ¡Programa tu cita GRATIS de admisión para el programa Drop Off hoy!
¡Recuperemos TODO tu dinero esta temporada!