Since 1984, Lutheran Social Services, Center for Financial Resources, has been committed to helping community members through financial difficulties and educating them for their future decisions.
The Center for Financial Resources, a Sioux Empire United Way funded program, offers seven programs that assist individuals and households with everything from credit education, bankruptcy counseling, and housing resources.
Financial services can be for anyone at any point in their life. LSS has helped young adults who have struggled with credit cards to young families looking to start their own savings to anyone looking for help with maximizing the use of their tax refund.
Though there can be a stigma behind receiving financial counseling and all that LSS has to offer, Sara Ramirez, Client Service/Counseling Coordinator, believes they are breaking through that from the word of mouth and agency referrals. Sara stated, “Our goal is helping our clients through their current situation and counseling them along the way. Once they understand we are here to help, not judge or criticize, they are more open-minded and willing to share their experience.”
As tax filings begin, the counselors at LSS focus on educating clients on the best ways to maximize their tax refund. Counselors are available to schedule in-person meetings, over the phone or online. Typically, a counselor will meet with five clients a day allowing them to focus on each situation and give their clients the best help possible. During tax time, they work with clients to educate them on the pros and cons of their return options.
For some clients, waiting on a return can be hard when in a time of crisis. This is when a refund anticipation loan becomes an option. The pro of such a loan is being paid right on the spot for what the filing says they will receive from their tax return. The con of such a loan is the possible high fees. The counselors are there to best educate clients on every decision. Most clients will be advised to set up a direct deposit to allow for a refund to be automatically deposited into their bank account.
Sara mentioned, “It is always rewarding to see clients make these best decisions themselves with some learning from past decisions. One client comes to mind who chose to do a refund anticipation loan in 2017 and for 2018 found that a direct deposit would be the best choice for them and was able to set that up.”
Through client meetings during this time, counselors try to focus their attention on what will the client’s refund be spent on and how can they create a plan to maximize the use. They will help create a budget to track their spending which will help keep it all from being spent and gone before they realize it. They also will sit down with clients to go over other financial responsibilities such as paying off judgments to eliminate the risk of garnishments, paying housing debts to qualify for rent again, or how to set aside an emergency fund.
Sara mentioned, “We know to go to a mechanic when our car needs to be fixed, but we are ashamed or afraid to go somewhere when our financial stability needs to be fixed. Through our daily work and word of mouth advertising, we are hoping to eliminate those feelings for those who need our help the most. The Center for Financial Resources, like many other agencies funded by the Sioux Empire United Way, is here to help anyone in a time of need and most times a crisis. Don’t be afraid to reach out for assistance.”