SNAP clients Scott and Jeanette once scurried politely away from any conversations about restoring their credit score.
Both suffered from several health challenges and Scott found it difficult to talk through the hurdles that a prior criminal record had created for his finances. When Jeanette suffered a stroke and was unable to work, things slid further downhill.
“It was a pretty tough situation,” Scott recalls.
Last September, the couple enrolled in SNAP’s “Navigating Your Credit World” workshop with few expectations. Living on a fixed budget from a small amount of disability income, the pair was facing collections while each watching their respective credit scores plummet to zero.
During Jeanette’s recovery from the stroke, she was unable to make payments on her car. Eventually, the vehicle was repossessed. Despite the couple’s daunting troubles, SNAP Financial Counselor Jay McPherson remained optimistic.
“They became eligible to apply for the Credit Builder Loan program and enrolled in October,” McPherson said. “The program allows most clients a 12-month $300 loan that secures a $300 credit card with nothing down regardless of credit score. They seem to have managed the program exactly as instructed and their scores rose quickly.”
Part of the reason Scott and Jeanette sought out SNAP and credit restoration was to secure reliable transportation down the road.
“They realized their old car wasn’t going to last them much longer and after following a budget for a little while, they realized they needed to plan now to be able to finance a car in the future,” McPherson said.
Scott said the guidance from McPherson helped the couple navigate their way back to financial accountability.
“I learned if you want to improve your credit, it’s not one thing, it’s everything,” Scott said. “If you do what you’re supposed to do it’s going to happen. We found if we stayed on the right path, we could attain our goals.”
In addition to the workshop, Scott and Jeanette have been meeting with McPherson as part of ongoing financial counseling. All classes and counseling through SNAP Financial Access are free of charge.
“Jay has been absolutely great,” Scott said. “I’m able to ask questions and trust that he is there to help me.”
The workshop provides instruction on how to monitor a credit score and dispute errors. Scott eventually was able to have all three collections removed from his report, raising his score from 0 to 782
While Jeanette was unable to remove the car payment delinquency from her report, her score still jumped from 0 to 704. Both improvements happened in just around five months.
“Now this couple who found them in a situation many would call hopeless have a huge sense of financial accomplishment,” McPherson said. “They also have confidence and peace of mind moving forward knowing they have a down payment in savings and a credit score that will allow them to purchase a car whenever they are ready.”
Scott says the journey back from a nonexistent credit score has been an educational and rewarding one.
“I can’t tell you how much it meant to have SNAP providing that hope and those resources,” he said. “To me, building my credit up is not about being able to buy stuff, it’s about being a contributing member of society in good standing.”