The C-E-O of an Iowa financial counseling service for struggling families says the agency saw more new clients in 2007 than ever before. Karen Atwood, head of the Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Northeastern Iowa, says the client load nearly tripled last year and 81-percent of the people were either in bankruptcy or headed for it.
Atwood says: "Our numbers, seeing over 5,000 people when normally we would see about 2,000 new families in a year, was alarming. I asked the counselors during the year, ‘Isn’t there something more that these people can be doing?’ and every one of the situations was just very bad." She says the agency handled nearly 58-hundred clients last year, with 28-hundred in bankruptcy and nearly 19-hundred more on the brink.
"Our people are in sad shape, many of them, and the vast majority of people that we saw were under 40-thousand dollars in income and they’re all from northeast Iowa. These are our local people and they’re hurting," Atwood says. The agency is headquartered in Waterloo, with offices in Dubuque, Mason City, Ames, Marshalltown, Grinnell, Forest City, Decorah and Cedar Falls.
Atwood says many of the foul financial situations involved people who were out of work and then got hit with overwhelming medical bills. Atwood says: "Our counselors try to give them ideas of what they can do to either bare down and live on less or pay off what they need, but they do have to have basics met. When the house payment has gone from 700 to 900 or a thousand and that two or 300 dollars was being used for credit debt, all of the sudden, there is no money to take care of that." She says Iowa is "definitely seeing the impact of the subprime mortgage crisis, underemployment and business closings."
For more information, visit the organization’s website or call 1-800-714-4388.