Broadway and Credit Checks?

Credit scores and credit checks hold many back when it comes to fulfilling their “sueñitas” (dreams).

While I was watching In the Heights, the newest Broadway Musical turned movie from Lin-Manuel Miranda, there was one scene in particular that stopped me in my tracks. It wasn’t one of the beautifully choreographed dance scenes, which were also heart stopping. It was a scene that gets to the heart of what HFLA of Northeast Ohio does–help people with bad or no credit. Here is a brief synopsis: SPOILER ALERT!

Vanessa is a young Latina woman living in Washington Heights, in New York City. She works at a salon, but dreams of moving downtown and becoming a fashion designer. She sees this move as a way of elevating herself and moving up from her neighborhood which she thinks is holding her back.

When submitting her rental application, she is rejected due to a poor credit check and is told that she would need to apply with a co-signer.

Realtor: Ah, Ms. Morales.

Vanessa: Yes.

Realtor: I’m sorry honey, I meant to call you.

Vanessa: Oh, I’ve got bank checks. First month, last month, and security, good as cash. 

Realtor: It’s just without a solid credit check, there’s not much I can do. Maybe your parents could co-sign, assuming they can prove income 4 times the rent? You know what, get it to me by 5, I’ll see what I can do. 

Despite the fact that Vanessa can prove that she can afford and reliably pay for this apartment, the credit check automatically excludes her from being able to lease the apartment independently. Vanessa does not have any family to ask that could act as a co-signer, and is either too embarrassed to ask someone else or doesn’t think anyone in her community would even be able to co-sign for her.

Seeing this scene unfold is so crucial; it authentically illustrates a real issue that many people face.

As an HFLA staff member, I was shocked to see this plot point in a popular movie, let alone a groundbreaking Broadway musical. We live in a world that does not like to talk about money in a real sense. The narratives we typically see in movies and TV emphasize the character’s poverty and “struggle” more than the systemic barriers that keep them in this cycle and prevent financial growth.

The Difference HFLA Makes

While we do not rent apartments, HFLA of Northeast Ohio has been providing 0% interest loans since 1904. We have never considered a 3-digit credit score as an indicator of an individual’s ability to successfully repay a loan. Instead, we look deeper into the applicant’s repayment history, and more importantly, their current ability to repay a loan based on their income and expenses. We understand the difficulties surrounding building credit. For example, paying rent, utilities and cell phone bills on time does not add to your credit score, but evictions or being sent to collections for not paying bills does. More importantly, we understand the difficulties life can throw at a person, how events and unexpected circumstances can derail one’s dreams and have significant financial consequences.

Though HFLA does not rely on a credit score to determine loan eligibility, we do require that all loan applicants sign with a co-signer or guarantor. HFLA is a non-profit organization that charges 0% interest, we count on the loans we disburse being paid back so that these funds can be recycled and disbursed as new loans to others. For HFLA, co-signers provide security for our funds and lending model. However, we do see first hand how this is a barrier for many, even though we have the same standards for co-signers as we do for borrowers–the credit score alone is not a determining factor.

Co-signers do not have to be family. They can be trusted friends or even community leaders. Co-signers are people who step up, and believe in the dreams of their community. HFLA wants to take a moment to praise and acknowledge all of the co-signers who have stepped up and believed in our loan recipients. All of these individuals did so much more than provide security for HFLA, they played an important role in helping build someone’s personal credit and ability to grow wealth.

HFLA understands that it can be a risk to co-sign for someone, but this risk can uplift, support, and grow one’s community, helping our neighbors achieve their sueñitas.

As the plot of In the Heights unfolds (and I will try to not give too much away) Vanessa’s friend finds her rejected rental application. He takes it to Vanessa’s boss to ask her to co-sign, which she does. This allows Vanessa to live her sueñita, and get her dream apartment downtown.


Our Advice: Know What is in Your Credit Report!

Check out these tips from HFLA Program Director, Brady Gasser.

Find more tips at Nerd Wallet.

1. Know what is in your report and how it affects you.

2. Know immediate actions that you can take.

  • Pay down revolving accounts if possible (i.e. credit cards).
  • Pay off derogatory accounts if possible (i.e. collections, charge-offs).
  • Check for accuracy and report disputes when appropriate.

3. Know what habits you need to instill over the long-term.

  • Make on time payments.
  • Keep overall credit utilization low.
  • Be careful about taking on debt and look for alternatives.


$avvy: Women. Money. Freedom | Fall Event

Women. Money. Freedom.

Even in the earliest months of the pandemic, it was clear that the COVID-19 pandemic was going to wreak havoc on the economy. In April 2020 alone, 20.5 million jobs were lost. What was not anticipated was that 55% of those jobs lost were women. Women of color were hit hardest of all. Unemployment rates for Black women increased to 16.4% and Hispanic women to 20.2%. The numbers have not gotten much better since then, sending women back into precarious financial situations. 

Women in the United States were already financially vulnerable. In addition to the burden the pandemic put on individuals, many women were forced to serve as the caregivers for children or their parents. This put working women in a situation where they were unable to produce an income or were otherwise required to be financially dependent on another.

Persistent gender roles around money leave women particularly exposed. Eight in ten women in the US will be solely responsible for managing their finances at some point in their lives. Yet, 56% of women–61% of millennial women–abdicate major financial decisions to others. Women 65 and older are 80% more likely to be impoverished than men of the same age. Low-income women and women of color face heightened barriers to building and maintaining wealth.

The challenges that women face when it comes to personal finance are troubling. The reasons behind it are varied and often ingrained in society. In addition to being steered into lower-income careers and basic inequities in pay, women are less educated in basic financial management. 

This Fall, HFLA of Northeast Ohio will be hosting a virtual screening of the 2021 documentary film, $avvy. $avvy questions why women often take a backseat to managing their money by investigating the historical, cultural, and societal norms around women and money in the United States. The virtual documentary screening for $avvy will take place October 10, 2021 and is free for registered guests. Robin Hauser, the film’s director, will join a local panel of women to discuss the status of women in Northeast Ohio and how we can improve women’s financial empowerment. 

HFLA of Northeast Ohio’s mission is to provide interest-free loans to promote the economic self-sufficiency and growth of Northeast Ohioans who are unable to access safe and fair lending resources. We provide three loan types: Standard loans to address financial situations that may arise; Business loans to entrepreneurs starting a business; and Education loans to students in Northeast Ohio. Sixty percent of all of our loans go to women, with 70% of all COVID-19 Emergency Loans in 2020 going to women.

In hosting the viewing of this important documentary film, HFLA seeks to bring light to the lack of women’s financial literacy and autonomy and have actionable conversations on how community organizations can work together to strengthen Northeast Ohio women’s financial independence. Please join us for this important conversation. 

 

Watch the trailer here: finishlinefeaturefilms.com/savvy/

Get involved, contact us:

Assistant Director: Carrie@interestfree.org

Development Manager: Hillary@interestfree.org


Hear Our Stories: 2020 Loan Recipients

Hear Our Stories: 2020 Loan Recipients

Each year we highlight a group of HFLA loan recipients who embody the our mission through their personal story and character. This year, we have highlighted a group of extraordinary women, who through strength, resiliency, and resourcefulness, overcame obstacles and moved closer to achieving their dreams. HFLA is proud to have been a part of their journeys as a resource that provided the support they needed at a pivotal point in each of their lives.

The Carmens

HFLA helped three generations of Latina women on Cleveland’s near west side regain control of their finances. 

After Carmen Vazquez’s husband passed away, her family struggled to adjust to their new financial situation. She, her daughter, and her mother began living together and supporting each other financially.  However, when critical repairs needed to be done to their home, Carmen’s family did not have enough saved to cover the expenses, and they were unable to obtain a bank loan for the repairs. 

HFLA first met Carmen during open office hours at one of our partner organizations, Metro West CDO. Jose Colon of Community Financial Centers was working with her as her financial coach. He suggested that Carmen apply for a small, interest-free loan from HFLA to help consolidate some high-interest credit card debt that accrued after her husband’s passing, which would help her qualify for a home equity loan later on. Carmen and her mother applied for the loan, and her daughter stepped in to guarantee the loan for them.

HFLA’s interest-free loan allowed Carmen to move the credit card debt onto a short term, interest-free repayment schedule. She continued working with her financial coach and developed a very disciplined budget with new strategies to help her stay on top of her finances. Carmen no longer has high-interest credit card debt holding her back from accessing the funds she needs to repair her home and will soon re-apply for a conventional home equity loan through her bank.

Patti McSuley

HFLA helped a breast cancer survivor make a safe space for women battling cancer to feel beautiful.

Patti McSuley had been working as a cosmetologist for only a few years when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008. Medical bills quickly piled up from her treatment and, like many Americans, Patti filed bankruptcy due to the insurmountable debt. After the experience, Patti began Compassionate Wigs, a wig salon for women going through chemotherapy or hair loss. 

At its start, Patti’s business was a room within a larger salon. She realized that her business would quickly outgrow this space due to the amount of wig inventory needed to serve her clients. As she began to look for a new location for her business to grow within, she also began searching for funding sources. Patti received a small grant from the Youngstown Business Incubator and a low-interest loan from the Mahoning Valley Economic Development Corporation to secure her space and make the necessary renovations.

Unfortunately this funding would not become available for Patti for a few months and she needed capital immediately to make the salon operable and obtain needed inventory. Because of Patti’s previous bankruptcy, she was ineligible for a traditional small business loan. It was at this point that Patti was referred to HFLA by the Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation as a way to increase her stock of wigs, wig cleaner, and other specialty products that she needed for her new storefront business.

Today, Patti is the proud owner of Salon 224 in Boardman. She provides traditional salon services and operates Compassionate Wigs out of the salon in a private room large enough for women to come in with their own support team as they work with Patti to choose and style their wig. HFLA’s loan helped Patti achieve her dream of making each woman look and feel her best during cancer treatment,

Chika Morkah

HFLA was able to help an international student achieve her educational goals. 

Chika Morka is an international student from Nigeria who came to the U.S in the Spring of 2016 to further her studies at Cleveland State University. After her arrival, changes in laws made it impossible for her to receive money from her home in Nigeria, stranding her one semester away from graduation with no way to pay her tuition. Chika was introduced to HFLA by a classmate who had received an HFLA education loan previously. This education loan allowed Chika to not only pay for her tuition and register for her last semester for her at CSU, but allowed her to remain in the U.S. on her student Visa. Without this funding, Chika would not have been registered for classes and would have been forced to return home as she would have been out of compliance with her Visa.

Chika finished her Master’s of both Psychology and Diversity & Inclusion Management in Spring 2020, and is currently pursuing a PhD in Global Leadership and Change.

I was ecstatic when I received my education loan. I was worried that I wouldn’t qualify because I am an international student, but I was relieved and grateful. It was a life-changing moment for me. I have been spreading the news in my own little way to tell people about the positive impact an organization like HFLA is having in the Northeast Ohio community.” – Chika

DeLane Anthony-Loggins

HFLA helped a small business stay on track during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

DeLane Anthony-Loggins is an MBA graduate, licensed esthetician and the small business owner of The Wax Bar originally located in Woodmere Village.  She opened The Wax Bar and Beauty by LA at 25 years old. Through hard work, she has built her business to nearly 3,000 clients over 6 years.

In March when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and the state of Ohio mandated closures of “non-essential” businesses, including salons and spas, DeLane was forced to close. It could not have come at a worse time–she was in the middle of planning her salon’s expansion and relocation.  DeLane began the process of expanding her salon several years ago. The abrupt and indefinite closure of her business left her at a crossroads: should she move forward with her expansion plans or put her dream on hold? DeLane initially decided to put the move on hold.  Fortunately, a few weeks later, the landlord of the storefront where DeLane wanted to relocate the business sent her information on HFLA’s interest-free loan. 

DeLane’s Small Business Emergency Loan allowed her to order PPE and supplies to prepare herself and her business for reopening. This interest-free loan also allowed her to move forward with her plans to move and expand her business. “There’s always a silver-lining, even when you least expect it.  HFLA during the pandemic was my silver-lining.” – DeLane


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 

Ohio Department of Health | COVID-19 Testing and Community Health Centers

Ohio Vaccine Eligibility

FEMA funeral assistance for those whose deaths were caused by COVID-19

Rental & Housing Assistance

Energy & Utility Assistance Programs

Northeast Ohio Resources

Greater Ohio Resources

Food Resources: 

Small Business Resources


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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HFLA Corporate Partner Program

Investing in Northeast Ohio’s renewal starts with investing in its most precious resource, its residents.

HFLA has specialized in providing long-term financial relief solutions to the residents of this great region for 115 years. 2020 plans include scaling up operations and empowering even more Northeast Ohio residents with interest-free loans. Partnering with HFLA to achieve these goals provides your organization with the ability to directly impact individual residents and help build sustainable change.

The HFLA Corporate Partner Program gives your organization the ability to create a loan pool fund that will expand your reach into Northeast Ohio communities, specifically, those with high concentrations of low to moderate income residents.

To learn more about HFLA's Corporate Partner Program and how to become a partner, please click here here.

 


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