The current economic crisis has affected not just those Jewish agencies providing tangible goods and services to those in need, but also those that provide people with the funds necessary to get by when other conventional lenders are not an option.
The Hebrew Free Loan Association (HFLA) in recent months not only has seen an increase in the number of applicants for loans, but also has seen applicants who had never before required that organization’s help, said its executive director, Norma Williamson.
Although the HFLA is nonsectarian, Williamson said, about 85 percent of its clients are Jewish. The organization works to make the terms of each loan “appropriate to our borrowers. … We’re able to tailor repayment to an individual’s ability to pay.”
In recent months, the HFLA has seen an increase in the number of people having trouble making payments on their loans, and has had to make accommodations accordingly.
“Many of our current borrowers are not able to meet their full payments,” Williamson said. “Sometimes we have to reduce the payments, and in some cases, endorsers have to come and take over the loan.”
In the past, Williamson said, perhaps two people a year asked for reductions in the amount of their payments. “Now, we have eight to 10 borrowers who’ve had to have adjustments in their monthly payments.”
Although the HFLA typically does not consider debt consolidation, “we’re doing that now,” Williamson said. “I am astounded by the amount of debt some people have on their credit cards. More than double or triple what we’ve seen in the past.”
She anticipates an even greater increase in requests for loans this spring, “when people are seeking help with summer camp for their children. We’re dealing with families where both parents work.”
Unfortunately, the increase in need for loans coincides with diminished contributions, Williamson added, “enough to impact us.”
(Toby Tabachnick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)