WASHINGTON (PAI) -- With millions of homeowners facing mortgage foreclosure, others struggling with mounting debt, unemployment rising and the country headed headlong into its second George W. Bush recession, Union Privilege is stepping forward with a package of tips and aid to help workers and their families through tough times.
Prime among the organization’s offerings is mortgage aid, in a time when an estimated 3 million homeowners are at risk. It’s also offering no-cost accident insurance for union families, help in budgeting and getting out of debt, refinanced union mortgages and aid to help workers “protect yourselves against the unexpected.”
Union Plus mortgages differ from standard mortgages in several ways, the organization, backed by the AFL-CIO, says. Its aid is open to all union members. The toll-free mortgage hotline is 1-866-490-5361. Key differences between Union Plus mortgages and standard mortgages include:
- Interest-free loans to cover house payments for jobless union workers for six months, thus letting them get back on their financial feat. The organization has already written some $3.5 million in mortgages.
“Unemployment, disability and strike benefits are available to make Union Plus mortgage payments,” the organization notes. It also has “full disclosure” for adjustable rate mortgages, unlike the sub-prime mortgages that got so many thousands of homeowners into trouble.
- A cut in mortgage closing costs by elimination of “junk fees” and capping fees at $100. And first-time union homebuyers get $500 in groceries from unionized grocery stores, courtesy Union Plus.
The accident insurance covers cases that employer-provided insurance omits, notably for unionists’ families, or when employer insurance stops. Called UnionSecure, and jointly run by Union Privilege and ULLICO, it offers supplemental life and accident insurance to protect family finances, along with up to $5,000 in free accidental death insurance for a year with no strings attached--including no medical exam.
"If you have life insurance through your employer, ask whether that coverage will continue when you retire or if you leave your job. Your employer may offer continuation options. Otherwise, you may want to purchase your own policy not tied to your job,” Union Privilege warns.
Union Plus offers debt counseling and tips on how to get out of debt, including:
- Pay down credit card debt. “Once you have made a commitment to paying down debt, sit down and come up with a plan for payoff,” the organization says. It has experts at Union Plus Credit Counseling to help. They suggest:
- Control your credit. “You cannot borrow your way out of financial difficulty. Don't get any deeper into debt. Save the credit card with the most favorable terms and cut the rest up. Make sure you check the fine print for information about punitive pricing, universal default and two-cycle billing and avoid accounts with those features.”
- Adjust your spending. “Make a conscious effort to know the difference between needs and wants. Come up with a written plan for reducing your debt systematically. Develop a daily, weekly, or monthly budget. Record ingoing and outgoing income in a notebook for easy viewing.” And tell your family, so everyone is on the same page.
- Examine ways to increase income and cut expenses. They include selling non-essential assets or finding additional work. The experts also recommend transferring balances on credit cards with high interest rates to cards with lower rates.
- Establish priorities. “All your debts equally impact your family's finances--and credit score--so it is important to pay each creditor every month. Consider allocating extra funds to the debts with the highest interest rates. Pay your bills promptly and pay more than the minimum balance if possible.”
“Set aside an amount of money to pay all your minimum monthly payments plus whatever extra you can afford. On all but your debt with the highest interest rate, pay the monthly minimum on time. Add the extra money you set aside to the minimum for that last debt. Continue this until that debt is paid.
“Then, apply what you were paying on that now-paid debt to the next one in line while you continue to pay the minimum amount on your other debts. The amount you pay on each successive debt ‘snowballs’ as you pay off more and more allowing you to pay off each debt faster and faster. It's a proven method of getting of excess debt,” the credit counselors at Union Privilege say.
- Contact your creditors. They'll work with you if you do so. Avoiding them just leads to more problems,” the counselors add. Many creditors will cut interest rates for consumers who face temporary setbacks or those willing to ask, the counselors note.
- Stay away from payday lenders and similar sharks. “Payday loans and car-title loans’ high fees will only dig you further into debt,” they warn.
Finally, Union Privilege counselors urge consumers to “learn from their mistakes” and, after reaching manageable debt, to establish emergency savings accounts.