Helping Renters Stay Put: Responding to the COVID-19 Housing Insecurity Crisis

Helping Renters Stay Put: Responding to the COVID-19 Housing Insecurity Crisis

Helping Renters Stay Put: Responding to the COVID-19 Housing Insecurity Crisis

The financial shocks associated with COVID-19 have brought housing insecurity to the forefront of our national consciousness. Renters and homeowners have both faced hardship and dealt with tenuous holds on their homes as the pandemic continues, but researchers are beginning to recognize the unique ways that renters have suffered during the crisis. A study by the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University describes the overlapping set of challenges that renters have faced through COVID-19. With half of renters losing income through joblessness and reduced hours, and a full 40% of renters losing half of their income, renters relied on eviction moratoriums and other financial assistance programs to stay in their homes during the pandemic.

The federal government mandated a moratorium on evictions during COVID-19, but that moratorium is set to expire in June of this year. An April 2021 study by the Urban Institute shows that while the nation’s $60 billion in accumulated rental debt has been offset by over $300 billion in allocated emergency housing assistance, renters continue to struggle, and local and state housing counselors have become increasingly crucial support systems for renters facing potential eviction this summer.

SpringFour has been following the needs of renters closely and has seen a major uptick in demand for rental resources, especially in Q1 of 2021. Rental Resources is now the 4th most in-demand category, accounting for 15% of all SpringFour referrals in Q1 2021. The SpringFour team has responded quickly to the changing landscape of rental assistance, quickly incorporating the new Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) programs into its database. 

“Our focus on the Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) Programs that are beginning to accept applications at the state, county, and city level is a perfect example of how the SpringFour Resource Integrity Team works. Because there is no centralized ERA access point and the program rollout has been confusing, SpringFour users rely on us to point them in the right direction. In addition to immediately researching, vetting, and adding programs to our database, we are continually analyzing our tools and working with our subscribers to ensure that this unique offering is elevated for easy access by counselors, agents, renters, and landlords.”

 — Cassandra Compton, VP of Data Integrity & User Experience, SpringFour

Housing counselors are at the forefront of helping renters stay in their homes, and SpringFour is pleased to highlight the commitment and dedication of one of its partners, Money Management International (MMI), to step up and provide resources that can fight housing insecurity for renters across the country. Our report, Overcoming Housing Insecurity One Family at a Time: A Case Study of SpringFour and Money Management International, highlights how a partnership like this can be a crucial stopgap for renters seeking assistance in a confusing and challenging time. As noted by the President and CEO of MMI:

“Our vision is to make life affordable for everyone, but sometimes financial coaching and debt management alone aren’t enough to make ends meet. Because rent and utility costs represent some of the most common household expenses, our clients often find themselves needing more help in these areas. For clients unable to meet their obligations, referral to legal services is often to review them for possibly bankruptcy and to avoid home foreclosure.”

—  Jim Triggs, President and CEO, MMI

We applaud the on-the-ground leaders who are helping renters stay in their homes and having profound impacts on those families’ financial health and security. The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are ongoing, and renters face increasing housing insecurity as evictions are set to rise this summer. As we work to stave off this impending housing crisis, we recognize that we are all in this together.

“At the end of the day, our mission and housing counselors’ missions are the same: to see people succeed, stay in their homes, and become financially healthy. People need access to trustworthy advisors, resources and programs. This makes all the difference in a person’s success on their financial health journey.”

— Rochelle Gorey, Co-Founder and CEO, SpringFour

Read our Case Study: Overcoming Housing Insecurity One Family at a Time: A Case Study of SpringFour and Money Management International

Katy Jacob

VP of Research & Impact, SpringFour

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One Year Post-COVID-19: SpringFour Looks Back

One Year Post-COVID-19: SpringFour Looks Back

One Year Post-COVID-19: SpringFour Looks Back

In the year since COVID-19 lockdowns began, more financial institutions than ever before have committed to their customers’ financial health. Together with banks, lenders, employers, and nonprofits, SpringFour is proud to be part of the solution, delivering almost 3.8 million financial health referrals to individuals in need in the past year.

Like everyone around the country, the SpringFour team was thrown into our new reality just over a year ago. There was no way for anyone to predict just how long the lockdown restrictions would continue – and that we would still be dealing with the aftermath, particularly the financial shocks, today.

“Like so many others, the dark cloud of lay-offs and furloughs directly hit me in early 2020. I was faced with figuring out how to pay my utility bills, mortgage, and prescription costs with a loss of household income. Assistance and support from companies were not readily available and phone calls to customer support were met with hours on hold and no real answers. SpringFour’s solutions allow real people, no matter their background, economic class, or education level, a way to get back on track to financial health. When people are faced with job loss, paying prescriptions out of pocket, or any additional family expenses, SpringFour makes  trusted resources accessible nationwide.”

 

– Maggie Kaiser, Client Success Manager, SpringFour

Our staff actually grew within a few months of the pandemic. While everything changed around us in an instant, and we acclimated to being at home with our families during work and school, adjusting our daily rituals, and hoping our loved ones stayed safe, we found ourselves busier than ever at SpringFour.

The mission of SpringFour has always been to provide resources to people who need assistance in a time of financial difficulty. We believe that families deserve help when they have fallen on hard times, and recognize that it can be extremely challenging to know where to go to get that help. Our research shows us that 83% of households would like to get financial assistance from their bank, but at the same time, a minority of households know where to go for financial assistance. So when COVID-19 hit, we knew people and companies would need SpringFour more than ever – and we knew that we were in a unique position to help. 

We immediately brought our experienced Resource Integrity Team together, and in just days, we added hundreds of resources. Within a month, we built three new COVID-specific categories containing over 3,000 local resources focused on food savings, financial support, and healthcare assistance related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Even before the extent of the pandemic was clear, the SpringFour Resource Integrity Team swung into action. In addition to the challenging task of looking for pop-up and ad hoc resources, we were also faced with closures and changes to the organizations that we feature in our database. The advantage of a small organization powered by experienced community development and social services professionals is that we were able to completely shift our focus to the needs in front of us. That meant developing new resource categories and creating a financial assistance guide that has been referred over 260,000 times. Every single person on our team is dedicated to providing accurate and helpful information to people in need – that’s what kept us going through a challenging year.”

 

– Cassandra Compton, VP of Data Integrity & User Experience, SpringFour

While it is a sobering reality that 1 in 10 Americans found themselves facing food insecurity due to the pandemic – many of them for the first time – it is a privilege to be a part of the solution in providing access to affordable and healthy food. And while high unemployment levels impacted families, and record numbers of women left the workforce to care for their children who could not go to school, SpringFour was grateful to be in a position to help thousands of those families weather the storm.

“As someone who has researched financial health, economic systems and economic development for more than 20 years, the COVID-19 pandemic has proven to be a unique financial shock due to its ongoing impact and widespread reach. Suddenly, financial crises were impacting families who had never experienced such acute need before, for reasons outside of any individual family’s control. The pandemic uncovered what those of us in the financial health field have long known to be true: we are all one crisis away from financial catastrophe. And there should be systems in place to help.”

 

– Katy Jacob, VP of Research & Impact, SpringFour

The need was not only widespread – it was immediate. SpringFour reduced its deployment time to less than 15  days in response to the high number of new clients we took on during the pandemic who needed fast emergency assistance for their customers. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic is an event that caused immediate and unexpected chaos – impacting and disrupting lives and businesses. As a SpringFour team, we knew we had to act quickly and figure out a way to respond to pressing financial needs by delivering our solutions faster than we ever had before. Presented with this challenge, SpringFour was able to streamline its deployment processes, enabling current clients to expand and new clients to onboard within a two week window. This efficiency focus by our SpringFour team showcased our role as a leader in delivering financial health and amplified the social mission we share with our valued client partners.”

 

– Scott Freeze, Chief Operating Officer, SpringFour

Our clients became close partners in delivering financial health solutions to families in crisis. Together with banks, lenders, nonprofit agencies, and employers, we prioritized financial health for millions of individuals, making it possible for them to find the support they needed when they needed it most.  

“At SpringFour, we have always viewed our subscribers as our partners. As our subscribers saw their customers’ needs rise, we strengthened those partnerships to make sure we could help them meet those needs.  Whether it was repositioning their S4direct applications to draw attention to much needed resources, adding new categories to meet these new needs, or incorporating new scripting strategies to address new challenges, we worked closely with our subscribers to quickly get the most needed resources into the hands of struggling customers. We know that our partners see SpringFour as a key resource to show compassion and provide real solutions to their customers. We were honored to continue to do this as the COVID crises overwhelmed so many.”

 

– Katie Donohue, VP of Strategy & Engagement, SpringFour

Together with our clients, in the year since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, we helped provide:

  • 700,485 food assistance resources
  • 473,089 employment resources 
  • 328,738 utility assistance resources
  • 268,033 rental assistance resources

These resources help millions of people keep food on the table, find jobs or apply for unemployment, and stay in their homes with their lights and heat turned on. While families struggled, we dedicated ourselves to providing a way out of that struggle. We know that the impacts of COVID-19 are not over, and will be far-reaching. But even without a global pandemic, there has always been and will always be a need to help families in financial distress. SpringFour remains committed to that mission, in partnership with like-minded banks, lenders, nonprofits, and employers. 

“While this past year was harder than any one of us could have imagined, I am deeply grateful for my team at SpringFour who worked tirelessly even when their own lives were in upheaval to ensure people had the help they needed. I am proud that companies of all sizes and shapes chose SpringFour to be their trusted partner in providing COVID-19 assistance. I am inspired by the way our industry came together to serve those in need and I am hopeful that brighter days are ahead. The silver lining is that financial health solutions have moved to the top of the priority list and we are going to come out of this with a roadmap to enable people to achieve financial health.”

 

– Rochelle Nawrocki Gorey, Co-Founder & CEO, SpringFour

Katy Jacob

VP of Research & Impact, SpringFour

Industry Recognition

                 

 

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A Chicago Fintech Financial Health Collaboration: SpringFour and Enova Case Study

A Chicago Fintech Financial Health Collaboration: SpringFour and Enova Case Study

A Chicago Fintech Financial Health Collaboration: SpringFour and Enova Case Study

Enova and SpringFour are Chicago-based fintechs working together to improve families’ financial health. The two companies began to explore a partnership in October of 2019, and by the spring of 2020, Enova had launched SpringFour resources via S4direct to its CashNetUSA and NetCredit brands. Read the case study to find out more about how this partnership helped customers through the COVID crisis and beyond.

Read the Case Study

Katy Jacob

VP of Research & Impact, SpringFour

Industry Recognition

                 

 

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Annual Report 2020

Annual Report 2020

Annual Report 2020

Thank you. 2020 was a tough and challenging year for so many of us. We are inspired by the way our industry came together to innovate and help people during this challenging time. As an industry, we have seen that helping people isn’t just a nice thing to do — it’s the right thing to do. And when we do this, we can see the positive impact on our businesses.

In fact, in 2020, SpringFour worked with its partners to provide over 3.2 million referrals in over 30 categories of need to families facing financial difficulties. We worked together to quickly respond to the COVID-19 crisis, and it shows: half of our 2020 referrals went to help people in need of food, financial, and health care assistance specifically due to the pandemic. We are proud of this work, and very pleased to share our 2020 Annual Report with you.

We couldn’t have done this without you. The entire SpringFour team remains committed to transforming the way our industry assists those experiencing financial challenges.

To read SpringFour’s press release about the Annual Report, click here​.
To see the Annual Report, click here.

Katy Jacob

VP of Research & Impact, SpringFour

Industry Recognition

                 

 

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In Our Clients’ Words: SpringFour User Survey Results

In Our Clients’ Words: SpringFour User Survey Results

In Our Clients’ Words: SpringFour User Survey Results

Each year, SpringFour surveys users of its S4pro tool – agents and counselors who use it to provide vetted financial resources to customers in need. The survey helps us get a finger on the pulse of the experience and the impact our referral tool has on our clients’ employees, who are working directly with consumers in need of financial assistance. The survey seeks to gauge the impact of referrals on end users, ascertain what is working and what we can improve, understand how SpringFour affects employee satisfaction and brand value, and gather feedback on individual success stories. This year, we added questions about the COVID-19 pandemic so that we could understand our role in our clients’ COVID-19 relief strategy. Please find the full report of survey results HERE. 

“To truly help a customer, you need personal resources that hit their needs head on. SpringFour provides exactly what we need to give our customers the best experience and chance of success.”

 

– Counselor, Money Management International

SpringFour is very pleased with what we have learned from our survey. We see that we are clearly an important part of our clients’ work to help their customers get out of financial difficulties and lead financially healthy lives. At the same time, we are positively influencing how our clients’ employees feel about their work, and are helping to increase brand value and strategy.

“We increasingly see lenders/financial institutions turning to SpringFour because they know that it’s good for their business to be in a position to offer assistance when people need it. They see that customer experience scores increase, their employees feel a sense of relief, and repayment rates increase because they now have a tool that helps them respond and offer help in a way that they could not before.”

 

– Rochelle Gorey, CEO, SpringFour

SpringFour’s business model has always maintained that providing families with the tools they need to be financially healthy is a win-win-win: for the consumer, the company, and for SpringFour. We are especially grateful for all of the partnerships that we have with companies seeking to do the right thing in this difficult and unprecedented time. SpringFour continues to see 40-50% of its referrals coming from the three new COVID-19 resource categories that we created in the wake of the crisis.

“Anyone who has gone through a financial crisis knows how lonely and frustrating it can be. SpringFour wants to erase the stigma from this extremely common experience by working with financial institutions and counseling agencies to  provide practical solutions from an empathetic source. Our survey results prove that this model works.”

 

– Katy Jacob, VP of Research and Impact, SpringFour

Katy Jacob

VP of Research & Impact, SpringFour

Industry Recognition

                 

 

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The Looming Crisis of Healthcare Inaccessibility During the COVID-19 Pandemic

The Looming Crisis of Healthcare Inaccessibility During the COVID-19 Pandemic

The Looming Crisis of Healthcare Inaccessibility During the COVID-19 Pandemic

I want to start this post with a little bit of a walk back in time. The year was 2003, and I had just started a new job. I was in my 20s, single, very active, taking no medications, and with no health issues. For these reasons, friends and colleagues were surprised when I said I was going to sign up for my company’s HMO health plan. Why choose an HMO when a PPO plan, which provided more (and presumably better) choice, was available?

I answered: because it wasn’t available to me.

As a child and adolescent, I had epilepsy. I hadn’t taken medication nor had seizures since I graduated from high school, but for the purposes of health insurance, that didn’t matter. I, along with 130 million other Americans, had a pre-existing condition that precluded me from accessing most health insurance plans. At that time, employer-sponsored HMOs were the only non-public (not Medicaid or Medicare) healthcare options available to people like me. My peers were skeptical that I would be denied health insurance. Well, there was a mixup in my paperwork, and somehow I was put into the PPO plan. A few weeks later, I received a letter telling me that I was rejected for health insurance due to my history of epilepsy. 

Until the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was passed in 2015, I was one of millions of Americans whose life chances and choices were directly impacted by the lack of affordable healthcare available for those with pre-existing (not even active or current) conditions. I could not just quit a job, move, or become a consultant or freelancer without fear of losing my healthcare and thereby facing a financial catastrophe if I experienced any major medical issue. Once married, I could not divorce if our health insurance was accessed through my spouse rather than myself. The Affordable Care Act changed all that, and enabled people like me to have personal,  employment and geographic mobility for the first time without risking a health crisis that might lead to bankruptcy.

Having health care directly tied to employment has notable consequences for all Americans, regardless of whether or not they have pre-existing conditions. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March of 2020, more than 14 million people have lost their jobs, and 12 million have lost their health insurance along with their employment. For many, this has meant a double-whammy of sorts: the loss of income at the same time that large COBRA payments, or more expensive premiums through the Affordable Care Act exchanges, would come due. By June, more than 500,000 additional Americans had signed up for healthcare under the Affordable Care Act due to the loss of health coverage as a result of the pandemic. It is not a stretch to imagine that many of those individuals have pre-existing conditions.

Within a few weeks, this healthcare crisis might grow exceedingly worse, as the Supreme Court will take up a case in November that might overturn the Affordable Care Act, leaving 23 million people without healthcare coverage immediately, and putting at risk the third of Americans with pre-existing conditions who rely on the prohibition of exclusion from care that the Act provides. 

What does this looming crisis mean for the financial health and stability of American families? The loss of healthcare through employment has led to immediate and acute need for families that can no longer afford reasonable coverage. At the same time, people are waiting to learn what will happen to their healthcare if they lose a job and/or the ACA is repealed. Further, the impact of healthcare costs is already a crisis for millions of Americans, even before any imminent policy changes. 

Indeed, a majority of US adults have to delay getting medical care or put it off completely because they can’t afford it. This is not just an issue for the uninsured. Recent studies show that most people who experience difficulty paying medical bills have health insurance. The unaffordability of medical care is also impacting families’ ability to pay off their non-medical debts and take advantage of new financial products. Recent numbers show that the 137 million Americans struggling with medical debt are dipping into their retirement and savings accounts and defaulting on other loans. Another 2019 study found that one-third of credit card holders are in debt because of medical bills. Healthcare costs and access impact every aspect of Americans’ financial health.

Here at SpringFour, we have seen first-hand how the COVID-19 pandemic has led to the increased need for additional healthcare savings resources for families. The charts below show the actual and percentage of total figures for healthcare-related referrals by quarter. These referrals include three categories: healthcare savings, health insurance assistance, and COVID-19 health (which is a category that SpringFour created in the weeks following the pandemic to cover COVID-19-specific healthcare needs). 

What we see below is a numeric spike in demand for healthcare-related referrals during Q2, at the height of when many Americans were losing their jobs. At the same time, we are seeing a continuous increase in healthcare-related referrals as a percentage of our total referrals — this tells us that healthcare is taking over more space in the lives of people who are experiencing financial challenges. In Q3 2020, these referrals accounted for more than twice the percentage that they accounted for in Q1. This trend is unlikely to wane any time soon — and it might explode if policy changes occur in Q4.

While these trends are alarming and concerning for American families, we believe that companies should be doing everything they can to help stave off a further healthcare crisis. For SpringFour, this means that we are committed to providing as many resources as we can. Throughout October, SpringFour added over 700 new resources in the Healthcare Savings category. The majority of these resources are Federally Qualified Health Centers that increase access to primary care, dental health, women’s health, disease management, and other preventative care. With increasing unemployment and more Americans losing their private health insurance along with their jobs, more people are beginning to look to Health Centers and other community resources for their basic health needs. The additional Healthcare Savings resources were focused on increasing coverage in rural communities where the Health Centers provide a crucial safety net. 

While we are dedicated to helping in any way we can, SpringFour is also aware that the impending healthcare and health insurance crisis is one of epic proportions. While we work with our partners to provide assistance, we also recognize the devastating impact that a loss of health insurance will have on families, particularly in the middle of a pandemic. And as a person who is currently covered by the protections afforded under the ACA, I know I for one can relate to the fear that families have in losing access to care — right when I might need it most. 

Katy Jacob

VP of Research & Impact, SpringFour

Industry Recognition

                 

 

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866-732-2246

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