At least one economic predictor thinks Idahoans could be on the path toward brighter days ahead.

Idaho has the nation’s third-best economic outlook for 2021, according to richstatespoorstates.org. The website devised a formula by taking 15 important state policy variables into account. Idaho’s strong standing in factors such as:

  • State minimum wage (ranked first)
  • Right to work state (ranked first)
  • No estate/inheritance tax levied (ranked first)
  • Recently legislated tax changes (ranked second)
  • Debt service being accounted as a share of tax revenue (ranked third) helped to bolster Idaho’s strong prospects for the year ahead.

While that’s all well and good, Idaho citizens will likely be feeling the pain caused by 2020 for years to come. During the second quarter of 2020, the gross number of job losses exceeded the gross number of job gains by 31,213.

While Idaho did make a nice recovery over the remainder of 2020 in terms of stemming the numbers of job losses, there are undoubtedly still many people in the state impacted negatively by the turmoil of 2020. Fortunately there are several private and governmental agencies that can help Idaho residents needing assistance.

Debt Relief Options for Idaho residents

A leading option for consumers struggling financially is InCharge Debt Solutions and its debt management program. InCharge’s certified credit counselors work with creditors to consolidate credit card debt, lower interest rates and create an affordable payment plan that best suits your individual financial situation.

On average, credit card companies charged consumers 16.5% interest rates in 2021. Consumers struggling to pay their monthly card bills can see their interest rates raised to 25% or more by the credit card companies. InCharge works with card companies to get those rates down to approximately 8%.

InCharge’s goal is to help customers get completely rid of their credit card debt in 3-5 years. However, clients must know this going in: You will need to adhere to a detailed spending budget — and follow it with tremendous discipline — to eliminate debt in the 3-to-5-year targeted timeframe.

InCharge will take your monthly payments and distribute them to credit card companies in previously agreed-upon amounts. Consumers can apply for this user-friendly and hassle-free plan over the phone or online.

Also, there’s this as it relates to this debt-consolidation plan: Your credit score is not a factor in enrolling. Even consumers with low credit scores can qualify for debt-management plans.

Here are some of the other assistance programs that are available to Idahoans facing financial problems:

  • Debt Settlement  This plan is often used for relief from credit card, personal loans and medical bills. It can be extremely helpful because you might pay less than the amount owed. Creditors have to agree to a payment amount that settles the debt.  While this debt-relief option will help solve some of your financial issues in the short term, it will have negative long-term effects. The debt settlement will go on your credit report for the next seven years and have a negative impact on your ability to receive credit in the future.
  • Debt Consolidation Loan – If your credit score is solid, you could qualify for a low-interest debt consolidation loan. You will still have to pay off the consolidation loan, but at least you won’t be hit so hard by the credit card companies’ soaring interest rates.
  • Bankruptcy  This option allows you to get rid of your credit card debt, but it is a last resort when all other options won’t work. While bankruptcy might have great benefits in the short term, the damage done in the long term could be painful for years to come. The bankruptcy filing will negatively impact your credit score for the next 7-10 years. That credit score hit will most likely hamper your odds of getting a loan to buy a home or a new vehicle in the next 7-to-10 years. Before choosing the bankruptcy option, make sure to consider the effects this will have on your credit in the future.
  • Do it yourself plans  If you are the kind of person who is adventurous and would like a do-it-yourself option, you might want to consider a DIY-style debt management program. The DIY option will assist you in crafting a plan that aligns with your personal needs financially.

Idaho Debt Resources

Idaho residents struggling to find work or housing or to keep up with their monthly bills could be eligible for financial assistance through a variety of federal and state assistance programs. Here are some of the services that are offered to Idahoans in need of food, shelter, childcare, legal aid and other basic necessities:

  • Temporary Assistance for Families in Idaho (TAFI): TAFI is a temporary service that provides cash benefits for eligible low-income families so that they can purchase clothing, shelter, food and other day-to-day essentials. Eligible families can access their money through direct deposit to a bank or through EBT cards that function similarly to debit cards.
  • Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP): This government-provided health insurance helps children of low-income families. This program is for families that do not meet the minimum requirements for Medicaid enrollment. Once enrolled, beneficiaries can choose medical providers such as doctors and hospitals within the CHIP network.
  • Help For Seniors in Idaho: The Idaho Commission on Aging attempts to support the well-being for aging Idahoans by offering them resources to assist them in times of crisis. Their “No Wrong Door” plan helps to implement and connect seniors and caregivers with programs that offer support. Also, the Idaho Foodbank is a statewide program that coordinates a network of emergency food pantries, community kitchens, shelters and programs that collectively work together to relieve hunger among seniors.
  • Rent Vouchers in Idaho: The Idaho Housing and Finance Association administers the HUD Housing Choice Voucher programs in 34 of Idaho’s 44 counties. To be eligible for this program, applicants must meet HUD income guidelines and participants pay approximately 30% of adjusted gross monthly income for rent. With this program, participants are able to select their own housing — provided that it meets certain guidelines. However, due to high demand applicants are placed on waiting lists that often range from 12 months to two years .
  • Foreclosure and Mortgage Programs: The Idaho Department of Finance put in place the Independent Foreclosure Review of Mortgage Services to ensure a fair and impartial process if you are facing foreclosure. The most important thing you can do if facing a foreclosure is to contact your lender early; waiting until late in the foreclosure process will ultimately limit your options in trying to prevent the foreclosure.
  • Legal Aid for Idaho residents: Entities such as the Idaho Legal Aid Services, Inc. offer legal advice lines for eligible Idahoans in the areas of COVID-19, senior assistance, domestic violence and housing issues. They also offer assistance with guardianships, power of attorney issues, divorce, custody battles, landlord/tenant disputes, evictions, food stamps and Medicare benefits issues. To access these services, you must have a civil legal problem..
  • Energy Bill Assistance: The Idaho Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) was created to assist low-income households that pay a high proportion of household income for home energy needs. To be eligible for this program, you must be an Idaho resident.
  • Assistance and discounts on telephone bills: The Idaho Telephone Service Assistance Program (ITSAP) is available to help qualified low-income individuals pay for telephone service. It can help Idaho residents save $11.75 off their monthly telephone bill if they qualify for both the ITSAP and the federal Lifeline program. The discount only applies to one phone number per household. To qualify, you must be the head of the household, your income cannot exceed 135% of Federal Poverty Guidelines and the name and telephone number on your application must match telephone company records.

Idaho Debt Statistics

Here is a look at some of the debt that Idahoans are carrying into 2021 following an extremely difficult 12 months in 2020.

  • Mortgage Debt: Idahoans had $185,322 in mortgage debt in 2020, up 8.3% from 2019, according to Experian. The year-over-year jump is far and away the biggest in the nation.
  • Auto loan debt: Idahoans owed, on average, $19,832 on their auto loans — a figure that was up just 1% from 2019. That is the 19th highest amount in the country.
  • Credit card debt: On average, Idahoans owed roughly $4,582 on their credit cards in 2020. That is very much in line with bordering states such as Oregon ($4,681), Montana ($4,785) and Utah ($4,900), but significantly less than Nevada ($5,422) and Wyoming ($5,182).
  • Household debt: The overall numbers are pretty dire in Idaho in terms of the average household debt per resident. The average citizen in Idaho owes $49,900. While that number is relatively low compared to some of the debt in other states, Idahoans unfortunately are spending roughly 96% of their income on a yearly basis.
  • Student Loan debt: The average student loan debt in Idaho is $25,771. That’s the eighth-lowest amount of student debt per borrower in the nation. Idahoans owe $6.4 billion in student loans — the 13th-lowest total in the U.S.
  • Credit scores: On average, Idahoans have a credit score of 720 — tied for the 19th-highest in the nation, according to CNBC. Following a nine-point jump from 2019 (711) to 2020 (720) — tied for the third-largest improvement in the nation — Idaho’s collective credit score is now significantly higher than the national average of 710.
  • Identity theft: A total of 1,420 Idahoans were victims of identity theft in 2020, according to the most recent data. Only 81 out of every 100,000 Idaho residents were victims of ID theft — the 37th-highest total in America.
  • Bankruptcy and foreclosures: There were 2,707 total bankruptcy filings in Idaho in 2020 — down 24% from a year prior. That bankruptcy plunge, which was brought on by protections put in place by the federal government, ranked as the 16th-largest year-over-year improvement in the nation. As for foreclosures, Idaho bucked the national trend and saw foreclosures rise 4% from 2019 to 2020.

Sources

N.A. (ND) Rich States, Poor States, Economic Outlook Rank. Retrieved from https://www.richstatespoorstates.org/states/ID/

Lembo Stolba, S. (2021, February 15) Mortgage Debt Sees Record Growth Despite Pandemic. Retrieved from https://www.experian.com/blogs/ask-experian/how-much-americans-owe-on-their-mortgages-in-every-state/

Lembo Stolba, S. (2019, August 12) Top 10 States with the Highest Average Auto Loan Debt. Retrieved from https://www.experian.com/blogs/ask-experian/research/states-with-the-highest-average-auto-loan-debt/

Irby, L. and Potters, C. (2021, March 1) Average American Credit Card Debt by State. Retrieved from https://www.thebalance.com/the-average-credit-card-debt-by-state-4582582

N.A. (ND) How Much Do People in Your State Owe? Retrieved from https://peerfinance101.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/average-debt-by-state-america.jpg

N.A. (2021, February 26) Student Loan Debt by State — A Complete Rundown. Retrieved from https://balancingeverything.com/student-loan-debt-by-state/

White, A. (2021, February 3) Minnesota residents have the highest average credit score — here’s how other states compare. Retrieved from https://www.cnbc.com/select/average-credit-score-by-state/

Daly, L, (2020, April 13) Identity Theft and Credit Card Fraud Statistics for 2020. Retrieved from https://www.fool.com/the-ascent/research/identity-theft-credit-card-fraud-statistics/

N.A. (ND) Bankruptcy Statistics. Retrieved from https://www.abi.org/newsroom/bankruptcy-statistics

  N.A. (ND) US foreclosure activity drops to 16-year low in 2020. Retrieved from https://oltnews.com/us-foreclosure-activity-drops-to-16-year-low-in-2020