Targeted resources can help families navigate financial insecurity: What we have learned from COVID-19

Targeted resources can help families navigate financial insecurity: What we have learned from COVID-19

Targeted resources can help families navigate financial insecurity: What we have learned from COVID-19

During the summer of 2021, SpringFour and Elevate’s Center for the New Middle Class collaborated on a research project. The project uses data from the Center’s Non-prime tracker survey. The Non-prime tracker survey is a longitudinal survey measuring the economic status of prime and non-prime consumers since 2018. The collaboration also includes SpringFour data on over 5 million referrals offered to families in 2020 and 2021 in over 30 categories of need as well as a 2020 consumer survey on COVID-19 impacts on financial health. The study seeks to ascertain:

  • The impacts of COVID on non-prime and prime consumers
  • The state of families’ financial stability and how they feel about  their financial situation
  • The types of resources that families need in order to increase that financial  stability and improve how they feel about their financial situation

The study concludes that:

  •  The COVID-19 pandemic’s effects on American households were uneven, with some Americans improving their financial situation and others struggling;
  • Americans made efforts to improve their financial resilience through debt payoff and by increasing their savings;
  • Struggling households need continued support and sometimes don’t know where to turn;
  • Through targeted partnerships, together we can provide families with the products and resources they need, deserve, and indeed, have come to expect from their financial institutions.

 

Read the full study.

 

 

Katy Jacob

VP of Research & Impact, SpringFour

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Eviction Prevention During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Resources Available through SpringFour

Eviction Prevention During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Resources Available through SpringFour

Eviction Prevention During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Resources Available through SpringFour

The COVID-19 pandemic has had ongoing negative impacts on renters facing housing insecurity. 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. In this environment, renters relied on eviction moratoriums and other financial assistance programs to stay in their homes during the pandemic. However, the federal eviction moratorium recently ended, on August 21, 2021.

SpringFour is aware that tenants all over the country are very concerned about the end of the federal eviction moratorium. We know that families are in need of support systems and resources in order to avoid eviction or utility shutoff.  To this end, SpringFour has been following the needs of renters closely, and has seen a major uptick in demand for rental resources. Rental Resources is the top category of referrals for S4pro in 2021, accounting for 18% of referrals–up from being the 5th most used S4pro category in 2020, with 8.5% of referrals. The 2nd most used S4pro category is Heating and Utility Costs, accounting for 11% of referrals in 2021. This is also a crucial lifeline for families making difficult decisions about paying for utilities or rent.

“My client was struggling with making her rent payment because of the COVID19 Pandemic. The SpringFour referral I gave her helped her catch up on her rent in a state that no longer had a moratorium on evictions.  She was so grateful.” –Counselor, GreenPath

To address the impending potential crisis facing tenants who will no longer be covered by eviction moratoriums, SpringFour is dedicated to providing as much information as possible to help families who need resources. Companies looking to help their customers avoid eviction can count on SpringFour to provide the most up to date information for tenants, with extensive information in the following five areas:

  1. SEE IF YOU’RE PROTECTED UNDER A STATE OR LOCAL EVICTION MORATORIUM

The nationwide eviction moratorium ended on August 26, 2021, but state or local governments might still have a moratorium in place. SpringFour provides information on state and local eviction bans and bans on utility cutoffs. 

  1. KNOW WHAT TO DO IF YOU’RE FACING EVICTION

SpringFour provides access to resources for tenants who have received a demand for rent, an eviction notice, or an eviction lawsuit. This includes information on: free legal aid programs; federal funds to cover rent and utilities; emergency financial assistance; emergency rental assistance programs that help with moving costs and security deposits; ways to file complaints, and more.

  1. FIND RENTAL ASSISTANCE

The American Rescue Plan Act provides funds for an Emergency Rental Assistance program (ERA) for renters who have experienced a financial hardship due to the coronavirus outbreak; have a household income at or below 80 percent of the area median; and can demonstrate a risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability. Tenants and landlords are eligible to apply for past due and future rent and utility assistance, plus an additional three months as demonstrated by need (and based on availability of funds). Additionally, many state and local government entities are expanding rental assistance programs to help pay for rent that is owed. If tenants are not eligible for ERA, they may be eligible for another program in their state, city, or county. SpringFour has created an easy to navigate system to help tenants find these resources in all states that have active programs–just click on the state icon and receive the most up-to -date information on that state’s programs.

  1. CONSIDER HUD-CERTIFIED RENTAL COUNSELING

SpringFour also provides links to housing counselors from non-profit counseling agencies that can provide assistance with calculating an affordable rent payment, understanding lease agreements, and basic tenant rights. Help is available in-person at local organizations or nationwide by phone.

  1. AVOID EMERGENCY RENTAL ASSISTANCE SCAMS

Scammers try to take advantage of people during times of disaster and emergency, and the COVID-19 pandemic is no different. Federal rental assistance is being provided in communities across the country and scammers are actively using this opportunity to prey on consumers in need, by pretending to be someone they’re not. SpringFour links to The Consumer Finance Protection Bureau’s site that helps tenants spot a rental assistance scam.

If you are unsure how to help your customer or clients through a potential eviction, or if you know that your customer base includes a high proportion of tenants that are impacted by the recent lifting of the eviction moratorium, SpringFour would be happy to help. Contact us at resources@springfour.com.

Cassandra Compton

Vice President, Data Integrity & User Experience, SpringFour

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SpringFour: A One-Stop Shop for Homeowner Assistance

SpringFour: A One-Stop Shop for Homeowner Assistance

SpringFour: A One-Stop Shop for Homeowner Assistance

The Homeowner Assistance Fund (HAF) is a new federal program to help homeowners impacted by COVID-19 catch up on mortgage and utility bills and pay other housing costs. Funding for the program is provided by the United States Department of the Treasury through the American Rescue Plan Act, and will be rolled out as states develop their programs over the coming months.

We expect most states to have programs rolled out by September, and are poised to serve as a one-stop shop of information on each individual state program. SpringFour has created a category, Mortgage Relief (HAF) to connect homeowners to information about the HAF resources available in their state. Our team is actively tracking programs and adding information about eligibility and the application process. Expert authored guides provide a quick way for homeowners to understand the options in their state. We include contact information and eligibility and application information; our resources are updated daily. Our tip sheets on each state program provide extensive information for servicers, banks, and others to use. SpringFour is unique in its ability to serve as an expert one-stop shop of information on HAF programs throughout the country.

In addition to being a one-stop shop for information on HAF, SpringFour is proud to announce a new offering: S4direct for Mortgage Servicers. This custom tool enables servicers to utilize SpringFour’s S4direct technology solution to connect borrowers to effective and vetted mortgage assistance programs, HAF state funds, HUD certified counselors and other basic need resources.

S4direct for Mortgage Servicers is an easy to implement digital solution that enables quick and simple access to the most up-to-date and vetted resources – helping borrowers find the most accurate and timely information pertaining to HAF, HUD-certified housing counseling, and basic needs. This SpringFour direct limited edition is designed to go to market in 15 days or less–meeting consumer demand and regulatory requirements/CFPB guidance.

And why do so many financial institutions and credit counseling organizations look to SpringFour as their source of housing program information? Because we’ve been providing this information since our founding in 2005. For over a decade, SpringFour has served as the trusted source for information on Hardest-hit funds, foreclosure laws, local HUD-approved counselors, fair housing resources, and, most recently, Emergency Rental Assistance. 

“Housing counseling from nonprofit HUD intermediaries like MMI allows homeowners to borrow upon the expertise of their counselor during what is often an unfamiliar and traumatic experience. Overall, 79% of our clients report a reduction in stress after counseling.”

— Jamie Payne, Senior Director of Counseling, MMI

For more information about how you can leverage HAF and other housing resources for your customers contact sales@springfour.com

Cassandra Compton Vice President, Data Integrity & User Experience, SpringFour

Industry Recognition

                 

 

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Companies Focus on ESG Metrics, Highlight SpringFour Partnership

Companies Focus on ESG Metrics, Highlight SpringFour Partnership

Companies Focus on ESG Metrics, Highlight SpringFour Partnership

In the wake of climate change and social unrest surrounding racial inequality, many companies are ramping up their environmental, social and governance (ESG) programs to highlight the importance of being a good corporate citizen with a positive impact on customers and community. Banks in particular are reimagining their role as corporate stewards, and rethinking what ESG means for them as part of a broader emphasis on corporate social responsibility (CSR). In fact, in a report focused on banks in a post-COVID world, McKinsey states that in order to thrive, banks must bring “environmental, social, and governance (ESG) considerations to the fore, along with a better sense of corporate purpose.”

According to Forbes:

“ESG issues were first mentioned in the 2006 United Nation’s Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) report… ESG criteria was, for the first time, required to be incorporated in the financial evaluations of companies. This effort was focused on further developing sustainable investments. At the time, 63 investment companies… signed with $6.5 trillion in assets under management (AUM) incorporating ESG issues. As of June 2019, there are 2450 signatories representing over $80 trillion in AUM.”

Indeed, in the wake of COVID-19, political protests about racial inequality, and natural disasters and climate-related tragedies that have devastated many communities, we understand the domino effect that one area of inequality has on others. At SpringFour, we see these impacts every day: as renters are disproportionately impacted by job loss; as communities of color are disproportionately impacted by natural disasters; as a worldwide pandemic leads to hyper-local impacts in neighborhoods that lack access to adequate healthcare. Each one of these realities means that people struggle in a variety of ways every day–one job loss, one health care crisis, one prolonged utility outage can have a cascading impact on a family’s ability to pay for other basic necessities, like food and childcare.

And so often, those families don’t know where to go for help. For 15 years, long before ESG and CSR  became household acronyms, SpringFour’s mission was to assist companies in realizing their larger role and impact on families and communities by giving them tools to help those in financial crisis become whole. We have always believed that financial institutions have not only the opportunity, but the responsibility, to be a positive force in people’s lives.

Banks seem to be on the same page in the wake of the COVID crisis. Recently, more than 60 major companies, including large financial institutions such as Bank of America, have announced that they will be adopting a new framework for reporting on ESG metrics in partnership with the World Economic Forum. This framework encompasses metrics from greenhouse gas emissions to board and staff diversity to programs to fight income inequality. 

According to BankDirector, “the banks that become ESG leaders will create products that improve the long-term financial health of their retail and small business customers.” ESG programs at financial institutions include more than just retail products–they encompass community services, partnerships with nonprofits and fintechs, green investing strategies, and more. Recently, SpringFour has become an important component in ESG  reporting for many of our clients, who are highlighting the social impact of their partnership with us as part of their overall corporate social responsibility strategies. 

“Banks and other financial institutions play a crucial role in the fabric of every community. They are not only the places that families trust with their money–they impact community development, serve as employment anchors, influence environmental practice and lead local investment policy. Banks have an opportunity through ESG programs, in partnership with experts such as SpringFour, to showcase their values and commitment to holistically-healthy communities.”

–Katy Jacob, VP of Research and Impact, SpringFour

We know that families want to engage in a variety of ways with the companies with whom they have a financial relationship. For example, in a survey conducted by SpringFour last summer, we learned that 83% of respondents would like to get additional financial resources and assistance from their bank. Almost two-thirds would appreciate the same kind of assistance from their credit card company. People are looking for meaningful relationships with entities that they already have a financial relationship with–and they are expecting those companies to deliver.

“It was important for Mariner Finance to include its partnership with SpringFour in its inaugural ESG report. Mariner is committed to ensuring that its digital platforms and customer service initiatives provide borrowers with local support in their communities. Working with SpringFour has enabled Mariner to provide tens of thousands of referrals to its customers who are able to use the SpringFour tool to access verified and vetted food, financial, and health resources in their communities.”

–Mariner Finance

A 2021 survey by MX Technologies found that 50% of bank customers don’t think their financial institution helps them become financially healthy. While this means that half of customers DO think their banks are helping their financial health, there is obvious room for improvement. This is where programs that focus on ESG come in, in addition to compliance with regulations such as CRA that demonstrate a bank’s commitment to investing in all of the communities that they serve. Financial institutions can show that they recognize the role they play in the larger community by dedicating resources to environmental and social programs–and by actively not harming the environmental and social infrastructure of their communities. ESG puts a company’s larger values on the table, and customers are hungry to understand what those values are in light of the COVID-19 pandemic that has impacted almost every economic sector and reverberated across America. 

“As banks ramp up their ESG efforts and define their metrics of success, they can be assured that they are not alone. For more than a decade, SpringFour has put thousands of financial assistance resources into the hands of bank clientele. We are proud that our partnership with banks is core to their business model – and that it is a win-win-win for all, helping them meet clients’ needs, increase repayment rates, and improve the world.”

–Rochelle Gorey, Co-Founder and CEO, SpringFour

Since the arrival of the COVID pandemic, it has become clearer than ever before that many American households are living precarious financial lives. While this was true before the pandemic, these struggles are now exacerbated by historically high unemployment rates, food insecurity, and a decreased ability for individuals to band together with family and friends to overcome hardship.

Now more than ever, people need access to appropriate resources to help them through this crisis–and they need those resources right now.

Katy Jacob

VP of Research & Impact, SpringFour

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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

Industry Recognition

                 

 

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866-732-2246

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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

                 

 

GET IN TOUCH

For all inquiries:
866-732-2246

Chicago Office at 1871
222 Merchandise Mart Plaza Floor 12

STAY UP TO DATE WITH SPRINGFOUR