What can HFLA of Northeast Ohio do to foster financial equity?

Dear Supporters,

It feels like such a long time ago that the stay at home order was declared, schools were closed, businesses shuttered, and we saw our own normal operations swiftly shift to high-demand, touch-free, and remote procedures. Our state has moved forward since these mandates and Ohioans are trying to create some sense of normalcy within this chaotic period in our American history. Despite the national pandemic, protests continue to fight for change and equitable practices within our country and government systems, leaving HFLA of Northeast Ohio to confront a very important question:

What do we do to fight for change and equitable practices within the region we serve?

As staff and board members, we have an idea where to start, but we want to hear the input of our supporters, our clients, and our entire Northeastern Ohio community.

HFLA’s interest-free financing options are available to those who are unable to access conventional forms of financing. This inability to access bank or credit union loans is often due to systemic barriers that prevent those circling poverty from achieving financial security. Some of the most underserved populations in our country in terms of access to finance and capital are African Americans and Latinx communities.

Within our Northeast Ohio region, HFLA’s loan disbursement includes 52% to Black/African Americans individuals and 9% to Latinx borrowers. HFLA has smaller percentages of loans going to other demographic groups, including 3% to borrowers of Middle Eastern descent, 2% to Asian/Pacific Islander, and 2% to two or more races. Our business loan portfolio is made up of 62% business owners/entrepreneurs of color and 42% of all business loans are made to BIPOC (black, indigenous, and people of color) women (data retrieved August 2020).

HFLA has always served those who were left without equitable financial resources. Whether that means serving European immigrants in the early 1900s, or serving communities struggling to overcome economic barriers today.

This fall, on October 21st, 2020, we will take a step towards confronting the systemic inequities in the financial system with an online panel discussion with area leaders titled:

Fostering Economic Equity: Fixing the Racial Imbalance in Consumer Finance

Please stay connected with us as we provide more information and updates. This will be an honest and enlightening discussion on what the current situation is and what changes can be made to make a better future for all Northeast Ohioans.

Together we can replant Northeast Ohio.

Learn More

HFLA Receives Grant from Healthy Lakewood Foundation

Press release from the Healthy Lakewood Foundation.

Find an official .pdf of the press release here: Healthy Lakewood Foundation Second Cycle of Grants Press Release. 


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 1, 2020
Contact: Jeanine Gergel, Healthy Lakewood Foundation Board President
healthylakewoodfoundation@gmail.com

Healthy Lakewood Foundation Announces Second Cycle of Grants to Address COVID-19 Community Needs

The Healthy Lakewood Foundation (HLF) board of directors awarded the following grants at its May 2020 meeting in an ongoing effort to address community needs related to the COVID-19 pandemic:
● Department of Human Services, City of Lakewood: $60,000 for resident emergency needs
● HFLA of Northeast Ohio: $57,500 to establish a pool of Covid-19 emergency loans exclusively for Lakewood residents
● Asian Services in Action, Inc. (ASIA, Inc.): $15,000 to meet the emergency needs of refugee and immigrant families in Lakewood

“The Healthy Lakewood Foundation board believes these three organizations are uniquely positioned to meet the needs of residents experiencing some of the most acute health and safety risks as well as those undergoing financial difficulties as a result of the public health crisis,” says HLF Board President Jeanine Gergel. “We are especially concerned about how the pandemic is impacting Lakewood’s most vulnerable residents and recognize our responsibility to make the resources we have been entrusted with available to assist them.”

The three newly announced grants are in addition to two previous grants awarded by HLF in March 2020 to Lakewood Community Services Center ($50,000) and Department of Human Services, City of Lakewood ($25,000), bringing the Foundation’s total year-to-date grantmaking to meet resident emergency needs to $207,500. Additional grants will be awarded later in the year as the evolving needs of the community resulting from the pandemic become more clearly understood. HLF will continue to assess community needs through proactive outreach with community leaders and service providers to identify funding opportunities for future phases of crisis response grantmaking. HLF will hold its second annual community meeting in September. Residents are encouraged to attend to share their perspectives on how COVID-19 is affecting community health and well-being as well as to hear more about the foundation’s vision and strategy. The meeting date and location will be announced later this summer.

Individuals interested in learning more about HFLA of Northeast Ohio’s COVID-19 emergency loan program and finding out if they qualify can visit the organization’s website at www.interestfree.org or can contact lending staff directly at team@interestfree.org .

About the Healthy Lakewood Foundation: The Healthy Lakewood Foundation (HLF) is a 501(c)3 nonprofit community foundation. HLF was created to ensure remaining assets from the conversion of the Lakewood Hospital will continue to benefit the health and wellness of residents in the City of Lakewood. HLF was established in September 2018 as part of the master agreement following the closing of Lakewood Hospital. HLF was formed from the Foundation Planning Task Force and through their recommendation to the City of Lakewood and the Lakewood Hospital Association.

To contact HLF, please visit www.healthylakewoodfoundation.org or email healthylakewoodfoundation@gmail.com .
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Press release from the Healthy Lakewood Foundation.

Find an official .pdf of the press release here: Healthy Lakewood Foundation Second Cycle of Grants Press Release. 


Savings Strategies for a Tight Budget

While HFLA of Northeast Ohio is here to provide interest-free loans to those who need them, the ultimate goal is to not need one. How? Meet your new best friend – a Savings Plan.

Ideally, a savings account or emergency fund can give you the cash you need in times of crisis without relying on loans or cash advances.

Unfortunately, we are all currently stuck smack in the middle of a global health crisis. A crisis that is having a major impact not only on our daily lives and health, but especially on our income and personal savings. Fortunately, many of us will be receiving a Federal Stimulus Check and for some of us, a tax refund as well. While this surge in cash during this crisis may feel like the answer to all your problems right now, it is important to use this money wisely and to think long-term. This boost can help you take effective steps towards a long-term savings plan to get you and your family through this pandemic and find financial security in the future.

What is an Emergency Fund?

The rule of thumb for an “Emergency Fund” is 3 months worth of living expenses in your savings account. The reality however, is that many Americans struggle to come up with $1,000 in an emergency. We at HFLA do feel that it is crucial to develop an emergency fund however, it doesn’t have to happen overnight. A slow and steady strategy will allow you to gradually and reasonably work up to your savings goals.

Observing prudent savings strategies now will make a world of difference once we all come out the other side of the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Federal Stimulus Checks: To save, or to spend?

Your Federal Stimulus Checks can really get you out of a bad situation if you have had a significant decline in income over the past couple of months due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.
Here are a few things to consider:

1.   Talk to your creditors and lenders

The CARES Act has a provision allowing those with Federally backed mortgages a 12 month reprieve on some mortgages, with states individually rolling out their own provisions in response. Because of the varying responses, it is important to reach out to your lender if you are having financial difficulties. Discuss with your lender options you can take, or get started on the application process.

2.   Put all of your expenses down on paper — Then Prioitize. 

Take some quality time with your bills and bank account and find every single regular expense that you have. Hopefully this gives you a very clear picture of your monthly expenses and how your current income is measuring up. 

Next, prioritize what is essential from most important to least. Starting with food and shelter, utilities, insurance, minimum loan and credit card payments, and ending with non-essential subscriptions (Netflix and maybe let’s chill on this subscription for now). 

Make sure you are taking into account any leniencies in your area. Are your local utilities companies providing any sort of payment plan options? Are your lenders offering any type of pauses on payments? If you have student loans, could you hold off on your payments until September?

3.   Put your stimulus check to work

Now that you’ve worked out exactly what your priority expenses are in comparison to your current income, you can let your stimulus check fill in the gaps that may have been growing, or take that check and invest it into your emergency fund.

We acknowledge that during these times, everyone’s situation is different! Do what is best for you. We urge you to always prioritize your safety, health, and well-being as you consider any financial decisions.

Take Advantage of  Your Tax Refund in 2 Ways

Luckily for many of us, income tax refunds can provide some much needed “bonus” cash that can be used to stabilize your finances.

1.   Add one month of living expenses to your savings

You just worked out your monthly expenses, so if you can, add that total to your savings now with your tax refund!

Remember to include: rent/mortgage, food, utilities, car note, minimum credit card payments, and insurance. Can you take this amount out of your tax refund? If yes, put that into your savings IMMEDIATELY! If not, try to put a portion of that into your savings and strive to save the rest up throughout the year.

2.   Catch up on collections or due balances

Review your credit report on AnnualCreditReport.com to see if you are behind on any collections or any accounts.

Use your tax refund to give your credit a boost and get caught up on things that are too big to tackle all at once. Consider speaking to a financial coach or financial counselor to help you with clear goals on what debts to tackle first.

3 Tips to Start Saving Without Breaking the Bank!

Some simple ways to start reaching your financial goals, even on a tight budget. 

1.   Make a SMART plan for your savings goal

Let’s say you want to save up one month’s living expenses, equaling $500, in one year.

Your specific goal is to contribute one month’s living expenses to savings measured to be $500 total. Your regularly measured goal equals $42 a month over 12 months. You check, “Is this goal attainable with my current income and expenses?” If yes, stick with it! If no, lower the measurable goal to something that fits within your budget. You ask, “Is this goal relevant, will it help me in the long run?” Yes! You will eventually have one month of living expenses that could be relevant during an emergency! You set a goal date of 12 months to keep your goal time-bound

 

 

Once you’ve achieved one SMART goal, make another! Check out this worksheet from Consumerfinance.gov and create your own.

2.   Set up direct deposit and “pay yourself” first

If you haven’t already, set up direct deposit to get your paychecks into your bank account quickly and safely.

Every time you receive a paycheck, “pay yourself” first! Take a predetermined amount from your paycheck and deposit it into your savings account before spending anything! By contributing a small portion of every paycheck into your savings account, you are growing your savings fund at least once a month without having any time to to spend it. Some banks also offer automatic savings that directly takes a designated amount of your paycheck each time. Even $5 a paycheck can go a long way when you stick with it!     

3.     Become a “Brown-Bagger”  

Making the change from buying to packing lunch is definitely a lifestyle commitment, but one that can save you thousands of dollars annually.

One cup of coffee a week can be anywhere from $2-$5 dollars. That alone adds up to at least $100 a year! Getting takeout can be inexpensive, but still at least $5 a day. Make your coffee at home, plan your meals the day before, and put that money back in the bank! Every time you feel the urge to buy food or coffee instead of making it yourself, total up what you are about to spend and put that money into your savings instead. You’ll be amazed to see how much you would have spent!

And most importantly, don’t touch your savings account!

Keep your hands out of your savings account as much as you can. Treat it like it is money only to be spent in an emergency. Schedule dates where you check on it’s growth. You’ll be surprised with how much you’ve put away in such a short time by keeping your hands off and eyes out!     


About HFLA of Northeast Ohio

HFLA of Northeast Ohio was founded in 1904 with $501 donated by Charles Ettinger, Morris Black, and their friends to help European refugees settle and begin productive lives in this country. They believed – as we do now – that if you give someone a chance to succeed, they will pay it back and we can continue this transformative cycle. The same principle guides the organization today. By providing interest-free loans to individuals, families, and small businesses in the Northeast Ohio area, we are able to help people help themselves. The association has drastically increased its lending capital in the past few years from individual gifts, bequests, endowments, foundation grants, memorials and honorariums and is now operating with a loan fund of over $1 million. HFLA is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Learn more about HFLA.

Get involved and stay up to date by subscribing to our quarterly newsletter or following us on social media.



Avoiding Financial Scams During COVID-19

Avoiding Financial Scams During the COVID-19 Pandemic

We are all trying to navigate a “new normal” in our daily lives. It has been inspiring to see how many individuals, small businesses, and families are coming together to lift up their community and strive to make a difference in the lives of those who are facing difficulties. 

Yet, despite this new “distant” community connection, we must still be wary of scams that try to take advantage of the vulnerability and generosity that we see today.

We have some basic tips to keep yourself safe from scammers during these times.

3 Essential Rules:

  1. Do not give your Social Security number, any bank account numbers, or credit/debit card numbers to someone over the phone. You have no way of guaranteeing the identity of whoever is on the other line. 
  2. If someone solicits you for something that you’ve “won,” an investment opportunity, or a “limited time offer,” walk away. If it seems too good to be true, IT IS
  3. If you are looking at financing or loan options, look for the Truth in Lending Act within the loan documents. If you are unable to find reasonable interest rates on a personal loan, contact HFLA of Northeast Ohio.

From the Ohio Department of Health: 

  • Robocalls – Never provide personal information such as social security numbers, bank account numbers, or credit card numbers to automated messages. If you think that the message is legitimate, call the organization via a local branch number and speak to a representative. 
  • Emails from the Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – Legitimate information is available from the CDC via coronavirus.gov and from the Ohio Department of Health at coronavirus.ohio.gov
  • Federal stimulus checks – Updates can be found on the Federal Trade Commission website: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/2020/03/checks-government – You WILL NOT need to pay money in order to receive your stimulus check, you WILL NOT need to provide social security numbers, bank account numbers, or credit card numbers. DO NOT GIVE THIS INFORMATION OUT.
  • Research charities before donating (that includes us!) – Find a database of registered charities on the Ohio Attorney General’s website: https://charitableregistration.ohioattorneygeneral.gov/Charities/Research-Charities.aspx

If you suspect unfair or deceptive sales practices, contact the office of Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost: www.ohioprotects.org – 1-800-282-0515

Keep up to date with the latest scam alerts on the Federal Trade Commission website: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/features/scam-alerts


COVID-19 Resources for Northeast Ohio

COVID-19 Resources for Northeast Ohio

HFLA of Northeast Ohio aims to bring resources that are relevant to the community it serves. This is not a replacement for 211 or existing community resource guides in your community. It is highly suggested you look at and support existing local resources. 
HFLA of Northeast Ohio has not vetted all of these organizations or offerings––these are provided as-is. If you have any comments, or contributions to this list please contact us at team@interstfree.org – subject: COVID-19 Resources. 

For the most accurate and up to date information on the Coronavirus (COVID-19) in Ohio visit the Ohio Department of Health 

Rental & Housing Assistance

Energy Assistance Programs

Northeast Ohio Resources

Greater Ohio Resources

Food Resources: 

Small Business Resources


Cleveland Jewish News: HFLA Offers Expedited Loans

HFLA offers expedited loans up to $1,500 for those impacted by COVID-19

After Gov. Mike DeWine closed all Ohio schools March 12, the Hebrew Free Loan Association Of Northeast Ohio didn’t waste time enacting an expedited emergency loan program, which loans individuals up to $1,500 interest free.

The next day, the Beachwood-based organization received 60 calls, and the number only increased after bars and restaurants were ordered to shut down in the days following.

The loans are meant for Northeast Ohioans who have been impacted in some way by the COVID-19 pandemic, whether that means loss of income, a sudden need for funds to pay for child care or another need. 

Executive Director Michal Marcus said the organization typically requires a guarantor on loans it offers up to $10,000. For the expedited $1,500 loans, all that’s required to apply is an application and documentation. 

“These are being written directly to individuals because we know if you are a restaurant worker, or in some type of service industry that isn’t working now and you aren’t getting income, you are going to need that money to buy groceries, you are going to need that money to pay a babysitter,” Marcus said. “There are needs where we can’t write it directly to the source of need.”

In the first week of expedited loans, HFLA was able to provide same-day turnaround on the loans once an application was complete and a promissory note was signed. HFLA is using DocuSign so the loans can be signed electronically.

Marcus said because her organization is now working remotely, checks could take three to five days to appear for loans because “it’s coming directly from the bank and we are trying to have as little physical touch as possible.”

In the first week of the program, Marcus said she saw “a lot of anxiety” around the impact of the pandemic and the unknown end date. 

She said the first person to receive an emergency loan was a single mother working at University Hospitals who now needs to pay for child care since her children are out of school. More loans went to those in the restaurant industry, and she’s been contacted by substitute teachers who don’t get paid if they aren’t in school. 

The HFLA expedited loans are generally targeted toward individuals, although Marcus said small businesses are also likely to suffer and need larger loans. 

Marcus also said she was grateful for HFLA’s supporters who have reached out to ask how they can help the organization continue on its path. 

“That has been kind of heartwarming to know – seeing how much people care,” she said. “And we do need it, our funds will run out.”

For more information, visit interestfree.org.


Coronavirus (COVID-19) Emergency Fund Press Release

If you DO NOT have the ability to print and scan or fax, please contact us for an alternative application. 

Contact Us

If you have the ability to print and scan or fax documents, you may access the .pdf version of the COVID-19 Emergency Loan Application below

COVID-19 Emergency Loan Application (ENGLISH)COVID-19 Emergency Loan Application (SPANISH)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Michal Marcus (HFLA)

Tel: 216-378-9042

Email: michal@interestfree.org

Coronavirus interest-free loan fund

Cleveland, Ohio (March 12, 2020) –

By now we have all heard about the evolving impacts from the coronavirus (COVID-19) across the globe. For many of us, the effects have shifted from a piece of news to a part of life.

Along with health concerns, there are many unfortunate financial implications: events are being canceled, restaurants are left empty, and people unable to go to work as they live through their quarantine, to name a few. For many working people in Northeast Ohio and the surrounding this can quickly lead to financial crisis.

To meet this need, the HFLA of Northeast Ohio will be offering interest-free loans for those affected economically by the coronavirus who live in Northeast Ohio.

HFLA will provide expedited Interest-free loans of up to $1,500 for purposes including (but not limited to):

  • Lost wages due to being unable to go to work
  • Child care costs due to school closures
  • Related medical costs

To apply, borrowers should contact HFLA at 216-378-9042 or email team@interestfree.org specifying that the request is for coronavirus related needs.

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About HFLA of Northeast Ohio

HFLA of Northeast Ohio was founded in 1904 with $501 donated by Charles Ettinger, Morris Black, and their friends to help European refugees settle and begin productive lives in this country. They believed – as we do now – that if you give someone a chance to succeed, they will pay it back and we can continue this transformative cycle. The same principle guides the organization today. By providing interest-free loans to individuals, families, and small businesses in the Northeast Ohio area, we are able to help people help themselves. The association has drastically increased its lending capital in the past few years from individual gifts, bequests, endowments, foundation grants, memorials and honorariums and is now operating with a loan fund of over $1 million. HFLA is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Learn more about HFLA.

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What is Predatory Lending?

I  Get It:  Payday and Online Business Loans are Bad – But I Need One!

As a nonprofit that provides interest-free loans, too often we see that our applicants are burdened by what we consider “predatory” loans and credit cards.

Predatory loans or credit cards have excessive interest rates, or interest rates that are much higher than the average. Typical Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) for a credit card can be around 15-18%, whereas predatory credit cards have APRs from 20-29%. A predatory rate for personal or car loans is generally over 18%. These interest rates result in unaffordable payments, excessively long loan terms, and/or debt that seems impossible to get out from under. They are designed this way; for corporations to make money off of lending money.

Predatory lending includes payday and auto title loans. Our Executive Director fought tirelessly with the Ohioans for Payday Loan Reform Coalition to place a percentage cap on payday lending interest rates to stop this cycle of preying on financially insecure individuals. Despite these recent sanctions, Ohioans are still at risk of predatory loan rates. We often see people get into trouble by taking out loans through online lenders that originate outside of Ohio where these sanctions do not apply. Some of these loans bear interest in the triple digits! We have seen interest rates well over 500% from these online loans. HFLA’s program staff helped a woman get out of a loan with a 638% APR just last week.

Before you take out a high interest rate loan, read this article.

Every week, we speak to people who are burdened by high interest predatory loans. We realize that often the only choice that many people have when it comes to getting the financing that they need. For many people, this could be the first time they have ever been able to get financed due to poor credit history, or no credit history.

In their excitement to solve their pressing financial issue, the high interest rate or bi-weekly payment schedule is overlooked.  Predatory lending preys on desperate situations and bad timing. They are financing options disguised and advertised as “good opportunities” to those who have bad credit and even promote “credit building” as a part of the lure. The reality is that they often force people to borrow more than they need, and the repayment can lead to a downward spiral of debt that is almost impossible to get back out of.

Individuals seeking personal loans are not the only ones at risk of predatory lenders. Small business owners have become a new target for high-interest lending. Business loans are typically very hard to get, especially for startup companies. Predatory interest rates–typically found from online lenders–can be up to 49% APR.

Our call to action:  Always be wary of any financing option you apply for.

1. If someone solicits you for a loan or credit card — RED FLAG — this is likely predatory.
    • Someone is trying to seek you out to give you money? Sounds too good to be true! Probably because they are going to make money off of you.
2. Read through the terms and conditions of the loan or credit card you are applying for.
    • Look for the Truth in Lending Act (TILA) in the document. This page will list the amount financed, the finance charge, the Annual Percentage Rate, and what the total amount of the payments will be at the end of the loan.
3. If you are currently having trouble managing your debt or have high interest rates on your loan or credit cards: Seek out help from a free financial counselor or coach today!


Here are some of the financial counseling services offered by nonprofits in the Northeast Ohio Region that we recommend:

  1. Cleveland Neighborhood Progress – communityfinancialcenters.org
  2. ESOP at Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging (for seniors and housing) – esop-cleveland.org
  3. United Way’s Financial Empowerment Center (FEC) – uwsummit.org/FEC
  4. CHN Housing Partners – chnhousingpartners.org

Resources for small business owners:

  1. ECDI (throughout Ohio) & the Women’s Business Center – ECDI.org
  2. Ohio Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) – clients.ohiosbdc.ohio.gov
  3. SCORE – score.org


About HFLA of Northeast Ohio

HFLA of Northeast Ohio was founded in 1904 with $501 donated by Charles Ettinger, Morris Black, and their friends to help European refugees settle and begin productive lives in this country. They believed – as we do now – that if you give someone a chance to succeed, they will pay it back and we can continue this transformative cycle. The same principle guides the organization today. By providing interest-free loans to individuals, families, and small businesses in the Northeast Ohio area, we are able to help people help themselves. The association has drastically increased its lending capital in the past few years from individual gifts, bequests, endowments, foundation grants, memorials and honorariums and is now operating with a loan fund of over $1 million. HFLA is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Learn more about HFLA.

Get involved and stay up to date by subscribing to our quarterly newsletter or following us on social media.