If you’re a Californian dealing with credit card debt, we can help you. InCharge provides free credit counseling to residents in all 50 states, including California.
California has the third-highest cost of living, trailing only Hawaii and Alaska. But its per-capita income of $30,441 ranks 15th among the states.
That means it can be hard to make ends meet in California. The state passed a bill in 2016 that will raise the minimum wage incrementally to $15 an hour by 2022.
Critics say that won’t ease the financial strain that drives people to become dependent on credit cards. The average Californian carries $5,769 in credit card debt, and the delinquency rate is 1.3%.
Another crunch is housing. The average California home costs $440,000, about two-and-a-half times the national average of $180,000. One study found that only 30% of California households could afford to buy a home.
But the next option isn’t cheap. The average California rental unit costs $1,240 a month, which dwarfs the national average of $840.
California, with 39 million residents in 2016, is the nation’s most populous state. In many respects, it’s functions like a nation within a nation, offering a wide array of social services that many other states lack. If you live in the Golden State and are having money troubles, California has an array of debt relief resources to help rehabilitate your finances.
California Debt Consolidation
InCharge is among the nonprofit debt counseling services operating in the state. InCharge maintains a website that allows those seeking help to apply online. Credit score is not a factor in qualifying for a debt management program, so even if you have bad credit, we can still offer you a debt-relief option.
InCharge has a debt management program that works with creditors to consolidate your debt, reduce the interest rate on your credit cards and create a monthly payment plan that you can afford. InCharge administers the program, taking your payment each month and distributing it agreed upon shares each month to your creditors. Applicants can apply online or over the phone.
While a debt consolidation program might offer a way to solve money issues and avoid bankruptcy, it is just one of a number of assistance plans available in California. The state offers financial aid for crisis situations, help with medical expenses, legal aid and help dealing with debt collectors. The state offers grant and assistance programs to state residents as well as delivering federally funded help through rent vouchers for low income people.
Some of the assistance programs available include:
- Healthy Families. This program provides diagnosis, free evaluation and surgical operations for those who are uninsured and or have low incomes.
- Homeowner Assistance Program. Provides an annual payment of up to $472.60 to eligible persons to help with homeownership expenses. Applicants must be 62 or older, be blind or disabled and must meet income restrictions.
- Water Bill Help. Northern California residents with low or moderate incomes are eligible for monthly water-bill discounts.
- California Homebuyer’s Down Payment Assistance Program. Offers low interest rate first mortgage programs and down payment assistance for first-time homebuyers.
- Help with Medical Debt Collectors and Charity Health Care. California has laws that to protect patients from aggressive and illegal debt collectors. The state also helps residents gain access to free medical care if needed.
The California Department of Social Services also offers grants and assistance to residents. Among the key programs are:
- CalWORKs. An umbrella initiative to prepare residents for work. Services include transportation, child care and money to cover work-related or job-training expenses.
- Cal-Learn. Helps parenting and pregnant teens attend and graduate high school or earn an equivalency degree. Program also provides payment to cover child care costs.
- Cash Aid. Offers a number of programs to help low-income families meet basic needs. It provides transportation, child care, work-expense funds and counseling.
How to Apply for Food Stamps in California
Like many states, California helps qualifying residents apply for federally funded food stamps. Food stamps, now called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), aren’t exactly stamps anymore, but purchasing cards gives help buying food to those falling below income thresholds.
The state Department of Social Services helps low income people obtain food stamps if they meet the program criteria. Applicants need to complete a CalFresh form that can be obtained online or at a state welfare office. Some of the information required includes:
- Proof of income
- Proof of household expenses
- Proof of child support
- Proof of medical costs (required if a household member is disabled or older than 60)
The state also provides emergency food to low income households through its Emergency Food Assistance Program and operates a special program to help pregnant mother and newborn children with nutritional needs. See estimates for how much food stamps a family of 4 can qualify for.
Housing Assistance Programs
Californians have access to federally funded Section 8 housing assistance. Eligibility is largely based on income minimums, which vary from place to place around the state. Both single people and families can apply, though income criteria vary according to family size.
The program, a function of the federal Housing and Urban Development, provides rent subsidies for very low-income families. After applying for a rent voucher grant, applicants can be required to undergo background checks and may be placed on waiting lists, since funding often outstrips demand.
In addition to income verification, you need to provide past housing information and information on any court-ordered payments you’re making.
Local public housing authorities around the state also provide housing assistance, guidance and help in applying for Section 8 vouchers. Contact information is available online at: https://www.hud.gov/program_offices/public_indian_housing/pha/contacts/ca
California also operates homelessness prevention programs and rehousing services. It offers aid to prevent evictions, helps locate transitional housing, offers one-time rent help and offers funds to pay security deposits.
Low-Cost Health Insurance for California Residents
Medi-Cal, as the state- and federally funded and state-administered health insurance program is called, offers low-income people an assortment of health care services.
Medi-Cal helps those who can’t afford conventional health coverage or aren’t offered it through work treatment and care. Applications can be made by mail, in person at state social services offices or online. For more information and directions for applying, access the Medi-Cal application site online at: http://www.dhcs.ca.gov/services/medi-cal/pages/applyformedi-cal.aspx
More About California’s Economy
There’s a lot of wealth, but it is concentrated in a few areas. California passed France as the world’s sixth-largest economy in 2016. It has a gross domestic product of $2.5 trillion.
The economy is based on technology, agriculture and manufacturing. Four of the world’s 10 largest companies are headquartered in California, including Facebook and Alphabet Inc., the parent company of Google.
The booming technology sector has helped California survive and is some cases thrive during the Great Recession. The state’s economy grew 4.1% in 2015, far better than the national average of 2.4%.
On the down side, thousands of businesses have left for states with lower taxes and less regulation. California’s state income tax of 13.3% is the nation’s highest.
Residents of California have an average retirement account of about $100,000 for those between 55 and 64, which would only annualize to about $300 a month in income. California is a pioneer in retirement planning, having just adopted a private-sector pension plan that automates saving for California residents.
A certified credit counselor can guide financially-strained consumers through their options. InCharge is nationally accredited a has been helping Californians eliminate debt for decades. Learn which states have the most credit card debt.
- Hethcock, B., (2015, Nov. 11). California lost 9,000 business HQs and expansions, mostly to Texas, 7-year study says. Retrieved from http://www.bizjournals.com/dallas/blog/morning_call/2015/11/california-lost-9-000-business-hqs-and-expansions.html
- NA, ND. Unemployment Rates for States. Retrieved from http://www.bls.gov/web/laus/laumstrk.htm
- NA,ND. Average Credit Card Debt in America: 2016 Facts & Figures. Retrieved from http://www.valuepenguin.com/average-credit-card-debt
- NA,ND. Cost of Living Data Series First Quarter 2016. Retrieved from https://www.missourieconomy.org/indicators/cost_of_living/
- NA,ND. Medi-Cal. Retrieved from: http://www.dhcs.ca.gov/services/medi-cal/Pages/default.aspx
- NA, ND. California Assistance Programs. Retrieved from: http://www.needhelppayingbills.com/html/california_assistance_programs.html
- NA, ND. Rental Help: California. Retrieved from: https://www.hud.gov/states/california/renting