Remarks at Foreclosure Prevention Panel hosted by Cong. John Lewis, Atlanta, GAsábado, 26 de abril de 2008

Mechel Glass, director of education, CCCS of Greater Atlanta

Thank you, for your kind introduction.

I’d like to begin by sharing some information about my organization.

Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Greater Atlanta is a nonprofit, full-service credit counseling agency. We are based in downtown Atlanta at 100 Edgewood Avenue and we have been serving the community for 44 years.

We provide confidential financial counseling to people who have too much credit card debt, have missed a mortgage payment and are trying to avoid foreclosure, and for people who may need to file for bankruptcy.

While our headquarters is in Atlanta, anyone in the United States can speak to one of our counselors by telephone 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in English and Spanish. They can also reach us through our web site, which is www.CredAbility.org.

We refer to our agency as the country’s financial emergency room. Our job is to work with people facing a financial crisis, determine a way to help them solve their problems, then move them in a situation where they can deal with their financial lives in a confident manner.

An increasing amount of our work these days comes from homeowners who are delinquent on their mortgage payments and seeking help to avoid foreclosure. Our job is to help them find a solution that will save their home, such as a loan modification, but the solution, of course, must also be one that is acceptable to the mortgage company.

Because of the increased demand from people seeking help, the number of housing counseling sessions we conduct is skyrocketing.

In 2006, we conducted just more than 9,000 housing counseling sessions nationwide.

Last year, that number jumped to approximately 31,000. However, in 2008, we project that our counselors in Atlanta could conduct counseling sessions for as many as 100,000 people.

Next, I’d like to provide a brief description of how our counselors help people who call us and need to avoid foreclosure.

Our agency is one of a handful of nonprofit counseling agencies in the United States that take calls from homeowners calling the HOPE hotline. This is a toll-free telephone number available to anyone in the country, and it is particularly useful for people who are delinquent on their mortgage loan and aren’t sure where to turn for help.

The HOPE hotline number is 888.995.HOPE. When anyone in Georgia calls that number, they will likely reach one of our counselors here in Atlanta.

Once a person calls, an appointment is made to speak with a counselor. By the way, there is no fee to speak with a counselor.

In a counseling session, we ask the homeowner to provide us all of their personal financial information, including their monthly income and expenses. The latter, of course, would include information about their mortgage payment.

From there, we help each person find ways to cut their expenses, and, if possible, increase their income.

We take a look at many everyday expenses to determine how they can reduce their spending. Many times, we can save families hundreds of dollars every month by eliminating unnecessary expenses, such as meals at restaurants, cable television and cell phones for every person in the family.

Once we’ve worked out a new budget, and we can determine that the homeowner has enough money available to make their mortgage payment, we contact the mortgage company and forward the homeowner’s information on to them.

We know that, in many cases, the homeowners have been unable to reach their mortgage company, or may have reached the wrong person.

Because we speak with people at almost every mortgage company in the U.S. every day, one service we offer the homeowner is the ability to get information requesting a new mortgage agreement in front of the right people.

In some cases, we are able to reach the mortgage servicing company with the homeowner and set up a three-way conference call to discuss a solution for the homeowner.

If a homeowner is looking at keeping his/her home and avoiding foreclosure, there are two common plans that CCCS counselors typically explore with their lenders.

A repayment plan is the most common workout plan for any household that is 1-3 months delinquent on their mortgage payment.

Under this scenario, a homeowner sends in his/her normal payment plus an additional amount each month that is agreed upon by the mortgage lender. Repayment terms typically span from 3-24 months and the terms of the loan are not changed.

The second common workout plan is a loan modification. This is a written agreement between the servicer and homeowner that changes one or more of the original loan terms, such as the interest rate, term of the loan or type of mortgage.

Under a loan modification, the monthly payment often is not reduced, though the interest rate usually will not “reset” to a higher rate or will be rolled back to the initial rate. This can be a solution for a family with an adjustable rate loan where the rate has recently increased, or is about to increase.

We believe our agency can assist most delinquent homeowners, especially if they call us as soon as they believe they need help.

Historically, we have found that 75% of our delinquent mortgage clients have been able to avoid foreclosure proceedings on their properties in the 12 months after coming to us for counseling. About 60% have been able to keep their homes.

Our goal is to maintain that success record going forward.

In conclusion, I encourage anyone here today who needs to avoid foreclosure to call our agency at 888.995.HOPE. You can also go to our web site and learn more about how to avoid foreclosure by clicking on the “Keeping Your Home” icon.

Thank you. I’ll be glad to answer any questions.