By Paul C. Atkinson, Jason Tracy and Chris Honnenberger
Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Buffalo, Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Rochester and Clear Point Financial Solutions stand in opposition to Senate Bill S-2493-013. We represent nonprofit budget planning agencies in upstate New York, a highly organized and accredited industry.
Currently, budget planning is effectively provided through the services of licensed nonprofit agencies. There is great need to keep the process managed in this manner. Most compellingly, consumers who participate in our budget planning process must, as the central focus of our educational efforts, participate in financial literacy education. This ensures that consumers are educated in the areas of budgeting, money management, credit and savings.
According to the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, more than half of U.S. adults admit that they do not have a budget. Our experiences reflect that New York consumers also suffer from a lack of financial discipline and/or abject financial illiteracy.
Requiring that budget planning services be provided under the protections associated with the highly regulated nonprofit budget planning industry safeguards New York State residents. Each year the trusted nonprofit budget counseling industry serves millions of consumers and assists those consumers in eliminating approximately $20 billion in consumer debt through structured repayment plans.
If S-2493 is passed, there will no longer be a requirement that New York residents undergo financial education in the process of budget counseling or debt repayment. This is detrimental for all, but mostly for the hard-working residents who, in this economy, need all the help and resources they can get.
It has long been the goal of nonprofit companies to protect consumers from the predatory, price-gouging behaviors of certain for-profit companies. We work hard to insulate consumers from entities that often cater to a desperate, primarily low-income population, and prey on the uneducated public.
S-2493 adds considerable risk to needy consumers who have been successfully served by nonprofits for 60 years. What factors justify exposing the most vulnerable of our citizens to the potential risks that can flow from involvement with for-profit businesses? These are citizens who have, in many cases, already shown that they can be easily influenced by slick marketing and unscrupulous business tactics.
We ask the New York State Senate for its support. It is in the best interests of New York residents to operate the budget planning process in its currently safe and responsible manner.
Paul C. Atkinson is CEO and president of CCCS of Buffalo. Jason Tracy is CEO of CCCS of Rochester. Chris Honnenberger is president and CEO of Clear Point Financial Solutions.