HOUSTON - Seventy-two percent of Latino households are facing serious financial difficulties due to the pandemic, according to an NPR poll. Now a non-profit credit counseling agency based in Sugar Land is reaching out to help more Hispanic families.
Credit counseling agency Money Management International says it has had a 92% increase this year in Hispanic participants in its disaster recovery program, Project Porchlight.
A new grant from JP Morgan Chase will enable MMI to help many more Latinos with free credit counseling services. People like 26-year-old Ashley Lopez.
"Both of us always dreamed separately of having a house. Both of our parents were immigrants. Just having an opportunity to get a house at a young age. That was such a blessing for us," said Ashley Lopez.
Lopez says that dream just came true. She and her boyfriend bought their first house after MMI helped her cut her debt and repair her credit.
"I applied for a credit card and they actually extended my credit limit. I felt a little accomplishment. And just seeing my score go up consistently, that's been great, too," said Lopez.
She says the Hispanic community needs more financial education.
"We're always taught to work hard, just work hard, work hard, work hard. But I feel like a lot of the time, we don't realize the potential that we have, like with buyer's potential, you know?" Lopez said.
"The second layer of that, really, is an understanding of the U.S. financial system. If you are first-generation coming into the states, you have a little bit more of a learning gap than if you're second-generation," said Emanuel Rivero, Director of MMI's Hispanic Centers for Financial Excellence.
MMI hopes to close more of that gap by expanding its outreach to Hispanic communities, produce mobile-friendly Spanish content, and offer more workshops and videos about the U.S. financial system, credit, debt, budgeting, fair housing, and disaster recovery.
"We've integrated text-messaging and timely nudges. So we'll send them a message a month after our sessions to check in to say, 'Hey, did you go to Bank of America and set up your secured card?" explained Rivero.
Their goal is to help clients like Lopez reach the American dream.
"It still feels surreal. I don't even think it's been a month yet. It still feels like, 'Are we staying here? Is this an Airbnb? But it's starting to become more like home, little by little," said Lopez.
Money Management International can be reached online or by calling (866) 889-9347.