Chicago City Treasurer’s Website Offers Visitors: “The help you need and where to find it”

While the information changes daily, there is no shortage of information on how to protect our physical health. What’s less clear is how to protect a family’s finances and make difficult financial decisions, particularly during the COVID-19 crisis. To help fill this void, Chicago City Treasurer Melissa Conyears-Ervin has taken the initiative to create a new online resource for families, small businesses and nonprofits that offer 24/7 access to the financial advice and assistance they need.

Whether it’s help paying the rent, mortgage, credit card bills or student loans, the new www.ChicagoCityTreasurer.com site features easily identifiable icons that will direct individuals, entrepreneurs, homeowners, renters, leaders of local and faith-based organizations and others to the information they need.

“I want to bring all the important financial assistance and advice where people can go to one place,” said Treasurer Conyears-Ervin. “This crisis has put an unimaginable strain on hard-working families, business owners and nonprofits. Through our Chicago Community Catalyst Fund that offers emergency loans to help Chicago’s small neighborhood businesses, and now a wealth of online financial information and advice, we’re aiming to help Chicagoans weather this storm.”

In addition to the specialized resources that address specific needs, www.ChicagoCityTreasurer.com also includes advice from financial experts such as Working Credit and other leading financial service organizations. One sample of the available information that helps with making important decisions during the unprecedented crisis are as follows:

1. Protect your financial future by being certain to make credit card and mortgage payments each month. The interest rate you’re offered when you apply for a loan, mortgage or credit card is based on your credit score. Part of your credit score is based on your history of mortgage and credit card payments which, unlike other bill payments, are reported to credit rating agencies each month. So, you’ll want to pay attention to these bills first.

2. If unable to pay your entire credit card bill, pay at least the monthly minimum to avoid late fees and being marked delinquent or sent for collection. And If you are unable to make the minimum payment, call your credit card issuer BEFORE payments are overdue. Due to the present circumstances, some companies may be willing to forego penalty fees or work out a longer term or a payment plan.

3. Pay your monthly mortgage in full, if possible, to avoid delinquency or worse. But if you’re unable to pay, call your lender BEFORE it is past due. There are new federal government programs that provide relief for certain mortgages at this time, but relief is not automatic – you must contact your lender to learn if your mortgage qualifies.

4. Learn what relief is available on student loan payments. The federal government has announced that no student loan debt needs to be paid for at least 60 days. However, it is necessary to contact your loan servicer to ask for the relief. The government also has eliminated collecting interest on student loans for at least 60 days. So, if you are able to pay, do so since all funds will be used to eventually lower the amount owed – which will save you money.

5. While only credit cards and loans can become delinquent, do not let other bills go to collection. Call any utility, landlord, or cable company to work out a payment plan BEFORE your payments are due.

6. If you’re short on funds, use your credit cards, NOT a payday loan. Credit cards are often the quickest, safest, and most affordable way to respond in an emergency. The average interest rate on a credit card is 19%, while the average real interest rate on a payday loan is 400%.

7. BEWARE of payday lenders, debt settlement, and debt relief companies. Despite the promises, they too often create unnecessary costs while damaging your credit score and financial health.

“When it comes to managing your finances and getting help paying a bill, it’s important to be proactive,” said Treasurer Conyears-Ervin. “It’s essential to get out in front of it, so contact the company directly, make the call, and ask the tough questions you need answers to,” added Treasurer Conyears-Ervin.

Treasurer Conyears-Ervin said in addition to the information at www.ChicagoCityTreasurer.com, her office will host a series of online information sessions to provide answers and assistance to the many Chicagoans in need. The first is “Paycheck to Paycheck” a new episode of The Crisis Cast that can be found here on Apple Podcasts. The episode is available wherever podcasts are streaming.

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