Tag Archives: financial literacy
Set any New Year’s Resolutions to help build and maintain better credit? We can help! Take advantage of our webinar series with Easterseals and Freddie Mac – build and maintain better credit, and prepare for successful long-term home ownership!
Did you know that Veterans are more likely to have credit card challenges? We meet countless Veterans and military families facing difficult situations, which is why we’ve created more resources and options for military members looking to achieve financial wellness. Check out our video series below!
Claudia and her family were heavily impacted by Hurricane Harvey, and then to make matters worse, her husband unexpectedly left the family after the hurricane. Due to these catastrophic events, Claudia fell behind on bills, and her family’s mental health started taking a steep decline. She learned about Easter Seals’ Harvey Program from a neighbor, and she contacted our case managers for rental assistance. Claudia received direct client assistance funding to cover rent, utilities, and basic needs- but moreover, she received support, kindness, and help with finding resources from her case manager. Claudia got enrolled in the Food Scholarship Program and is receiving ongoing one-on-one financial coaching. These are supports that have helped Claudia and her family get back on their feet, and to a place where they are feeling a little more in control again. As of her most recent financial coaching session, Claudia reported that things are better- she is currently working full time, receiving healthy food twice a month, and she is seeing a positive change in children’s behavior. She says her children are smiling more and able to focus on the things they need to focus on, for example- getting ready for school- and not worrying about what food they are going to eat that night. Claudia is thankful for Easter Seals Greater Houston and eager to learn more from financial coaching.
Over 3 years ago, Heather packed up her 2 young daughters Zoe then 6 weeks old and Riley 2, left an abusive relationship and everything that didn’t fit in her car and began a search for a home to raise her family. After living in a succession of marginal rental situations – at one point living out of her car, Heather and her two young daughters moved in to their 3-bedroom home, close to family and work, and in the preferred school district.
It had not been easy, but Heather was determined and was quick to point out that it could not have been possible without the support of a team of housing professionals.
In January, she submitted an application to a housing counselor with Easter Seals Greater Houston for $14,500 of down payment assistance through the Montgomery County HOME Fund program and was approved.
With the down payment assured, she began working with Terry with Storehouse Mortgage to qualify for the mortgage loan. Their budget was tight as she began paying down debt and building assets, but as Heather remarked, both Riley and Zoe understood that finding a permanent home was important and they all came together as a family to make it happen.
Heather began working with her realtor, Mike with Realty Solutions to find a property suitable for her family, proving to be a challenge. Homes in her price range of $135,000 – 185,000 are the fastest to sell, and home-buyers like Heather even with committed financing must compete with cash buyers purchasing properties within the same day of listing. Over the next several months, Mike presented multiple offers on homes with no success. Finally in March Heather’s contract on a home was accepted, beating out eight other offers made the same day of listing. She would move from a ‘trailer’ home in an unsafe neighborhood for a home in a beautiful family-friendly neighborhood, with a mortgage payment $200+ less than her rent payment. She pointed out that even her utility bills in the new home have been $200+ less.
The transition from renter to homeowner for families like Heather’s could not be possible without the support of Easter Seals Greater Houston and their Financial Literacy, Home Buyers Education, FinTech and Case Management programming.
On the local level, housing professionals such as lenders and realtors like Terry and Mike, and the Easter Seals HUD-certified housing counselors work to ensure that families like Heather’s secure sustainable mortgage products with all the financial support available. County agencies such as Montgomery County Community Development provide a number of programs such as the down payment assistance to help home-buyers purchase their first home.
On the macro level, NSEs such as our partner, Freddie Mac help people in the military, veteran and care-giving communities, as well as those with disabilities, obtain affordable housing through renting or buying a home. They also constantly search for innovative ways to support affordable housing opportunities, such as their webinar series and other online resources.
It has been quite a journey for Heather and her daughters, but as she looks around her home, you can see the pride in her eyes at what they have accomplished. Now she would be proud for her children to invite friends over for sleepovers, and they can walk safely to the neighborhood park for birthday parties.
As Heather looked around her home filled with toys and the backyard filled with swings and wading pool, she remarked, “This feels like home.”
Katy Thorstenberg, Easter Seals Greater Houston, Housing Coordinator
For the past seven years, Entergy Texas customer Melissa Delgado of Conroe has participated in Entergy’s Super Tax Day events to get her taxes done for free. It is one of many events held as part of the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program – a program sponsored in part by Entergy.
At roughly $300 per year, Delgado has saved more than $2,100 – money she would have had to pay to a tax preparation company. That savings, along with what she gets back on her taxes through the Earned Income Tax Credit, really adds up for her family.
“We found out about this program from a couple at our church seven years ago, and we’ve been coming ever since,” she said. “We were paying so much money. It was such a blessing and still is.”
Meanwhile, a young woman named Ashley returned to get her taxes done for a second year – a year after tax volunteer Carmen Phillips with Easter Seals Houston‘s Housing and Financial Literacy Program gave her a packet of financial education materials that taught her how to create a budget and track her expenses.
“After last year’s event we spoke a couple times via phone, but I did not hear from her again until she walked up to my table,” explained Phillips, who works for Easter Seals of Greater Houston. “She immediately recognized me and told us that because of that packet and our discussions in 2017, she worked hard all year sticking to her budget worksheets and tracking her spending – so much so that she was able to purchase her first home!
“I have to say I was both speechless and blown away by her sincerity and candor,” she said. “I was so pleased to learn that the brief education and information received through a Super Tax Day event could have such a profound effect on a client!”
Since 2011, Entergy has been sponsoring VITA sites in all five of its operating companies – Entergy Texas, Entergy Louisiana, Entergy New Orleans, Entergy Arkansas and Entergy Mississippi. Of more than 111,125 tax returns filed, customers have gotten back near $200 million in refunds.
In Texas alone, more than 8,200 tax returns have been filed, with customers getting back more than $11.5 million in refunds.
Pictured above: Entergy Texas President and CEO Sallie Rainer (left) visits with Senior Customer Service Specialist Paula Odom of Entergy Texas Public Affairs and Entergy customer Melissa Delgado.