Online at www.cneinc.org/cha720. Counseling will be available from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on July 20 at CNE at 1500 Chestnut Street, Suite 102 (call 423-756-6214 or email firstname.lastname@example.org), Consumer Credit Counseling Service at 5600 Brainerd Road, Suite E-1 (call 423-490-5620), and Operation HOPE at 2001 E. Twenty Third St. (call 423-629-1505). Financial planning help also is available from Tiffany Roan from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. July 20 at 5526 Brainerd Road (call 355-9114 or email email@example.com)
Tennessee has the unwanted distinction of having the highest bankruptcy rate in the nation, but a number of nonprofit groups hope to improve the credit standing and financial literacy of Chattanoogans with a citywide educational program.
Billed as "CHA720," four agencies are offering free credit counseling services to help educate and improve the spending and credit decisions of local residents in order to improve their financial status and limit bankruptcy filings.
On July 20, Chattanooga Neighborhood Enterprise (CNE), Consumer Credit Counseling Service, Operation HOPE, and Bridge Financial Planning will open their doors from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. to offer free one-on-one credit counseling. Appointments are encouraged, but walk-ins will be accepted.
"With the leadership of the Council for Women and local credit counselors, we can tear down barriers so more Chattanoogans can lead a life of their choosing without being weighed down by a [credit score] number," Mayor Andy Berke said Monday in announcing the one-day program. "This campaign is an important first step in giving Chattanoogans the tools to improve their credit and eventually achieve financial independence."
The Mayor's Council on Women last month highlighted problems with consumers' use of payday lenders and other high-interest or high-fee borrowing methods. Financial Independence, a work group of the Mayor's Council for Women, recently completed a policy paper about the impact of high interest lending practices.
The city of Chattanooga sought to limit the number of payday lending storefronts two years ago through city zoning rules. But the state Legislature, not the city council, governs what rates and ways payday lenders may operate in the state.
City Council Member Carol Berz, who also is co-chairwoman on the Mayor's Council on Women, said education and counseling is key to helping persons make better financial situations.
"We're very much encouraging and backing what CNE and these other group are doing," she said Monday. "It is easy to condemn predatory lending, but what is the alternative? One key approach is financial literacy."
Berke created the Council for Women in his 2015 State of the City Address to address such concerns as domestic violence, justice, education, healthcare, economic opportunity, history and leadership.
Other partners with CHA720 include Common Cents Financial Literacy and the United Way of Greater Chattanooga.