Record-high unemployment and one of the nation’s highest number of bankruptcy filings has put many Indiana residents in the uncomfortable position of seeking debt relief.

Help is available to those Hoosier State citizens in dire financial straits via government and private-entity agencies – most notably, a nonprofit credit counseling agency such as InCharge Debt Solutions.

Digging out of the financial hole that many people in Indiana have found themselves in, won’t be easy.

Indiana saw unemployment rates spike to a whopping 17.5% in April of 2020 and stay at double-digit levels before settling in at roughly 5% by the end of the year. Also, the average credit card debt in the Hoosier State was $7,393 in 2020.

One of the major plusses of living in Indiana is that the state’s cost-of-living rates remained relatively low, allowing most residents to weather the downturn in the economy attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic. For a second straight year, Indiana ranks as the nation’s 10th cheapest state to live in based on averaging annual housing costs ($9,641) and living wages ($52,207).

Still, there are plenty of scars left by the pandemic and the subsequent economic struggles. Largely because of the mountains of debt and rampant joblessness, Indiana residents had 15,764 cumulative bankruptcy filings in 2020. That was the nation’s eighth-largest amount of bankruptcy filings per capita.

The good news, however, is that Indiana has an array of debt relief resources that you can use to rehabilitate your finances if you are still struggling.

Debt Relief Options for Indiana Residents

InCharge Debt Solutions is a highly respected nonprofit debt counseling service that provides debt-relief options in Indiana.

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 will be dramatically more affordable for you.

Applicants can apply online or over the phone. Credit score is not a factor in qualifying for a debt management program. Even if you have poor credit, InCharge can offer you a host of debt-relief options.

While a debt consolidation program might help to solve money issues and avoid bankruptcy, it is just one of several assistance plans available in Indiana. Other choices include:

  • Debt settlement This would help those who have fallen behind on their bills, or those who have been forced to use credit cards or loans to meet expenses. With a debt settlement plan, your creditor agrees to accept a payment that is less than what is owed on your debt. However, this is a risky option that will do damage to your credit score.
  • Debt consolidation loans This is a good choice for someone with a very good credit score. That good credit score allows helps you get a low-interest loan to pay off your credit card debt. Keep in mind, though, that you’ll still have the consolidation loan to pay off. However, if your credit score is low, you could be hit hard with steep interest rates and this could be an unappealing option over the long haul.
  • Bankruptcy This option could eliminate all credit card debt, but your credit score will take a major hit for the next 7-10 years. That will make it very difficult to get a home or car loan if you are seeking an upgrade in the near future.
  • DIY Plans You can always consider a “Do It Yourself” debt management program with a template provided by InCharge that allows you to pick the plan that best suits your economic distress and your personal finances.

Indiana Debt Resources

Because of the massive width and breadth of the ramifications of this pandemic, these are uncertain times for just about everyone in Indiana. Assistance from debt problems is available in all Indiana cities and counties, including Indianapolis and Fort Wayne. There are government or non-profit organizations that offer financial help to pay bills, whether it’s for rent or energy costs or childcare. Free medical care or legal support is even offered if certain qualifications are met.

Here are some of the services that are provided to those in Indiana who are seeking relief from debt:

  • Family and Social Services Administration: This government agency is designed to provide Indiana’s elderly and low-income families and individuals access to programs that will help them cope with financial problems.  These programs include food, cash assistance for housing, childcare and help finding employment.
  • Healthy Indiana Plan: The Healthy Indiana Plan (HIP) is a consumer-driven health care plan for low-income individuals between the ages of 19 and 64. Members pay a monthly premium of $1 to $20 based on their annual income level.
  • Emergency Financial Assistance and Referrals in Indiana: The Indiana Salvation Army can refer individuals to governmental aid, supply emergency rental assistance, food, funds for utilities, medications, and more.
  • Indiana’s Food Stamp Program: Indiana’s Charitable Food Distribution Network operates 12 food banks and 1,750 pantries and community kitchens to give access to food to more than 70,000 households a week.
  • Hoosier Rx: The state of Indiana’s Hoosier Rx program offers financial assistance to seniors pay for Medicare Part D premiums for prescription drug coverage.
  • Social Services and Cash Assistance: Indiana’s family services can assist individuals who are in emergency situations. Services are provided to those needing free health care or financial aid to pay for pressing needs such as energy bills, rent payments or medications.
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families: TANF can provide support, monetary grants, and a variety of services to help Indiana families become economically self-sufficient. For help, call 1-800-403-0864.
  • Indiana Foreclosure Help and Mortgage Assistance: The Indiana Attorney General’s office holds foreclosure prevention seminars to help people avoid losing their homes. Attendees learn how to communicate effectively with lenders and resources that are available to prepare for a settlement conference.
  • Housing, Eviction and Homeless Prevention: Anyone currently homeless should contact the Indiana Housing and Community Development Agency. The IHCDA helps low-and- moderate-income families find more stable housing solutions.

Indiana Debt Statistics

In many ways, Indiana residents are a reflection of the average United States citizen — and that’s considered to be very much a compliment. Not rich, not necessarily poor, but just a lot of average Joes and Jills willing to put in a hard day of work to keep a roof over their head and food in their bellies.

Indiana’s median income is $54,325 — 18th in the U.S. The state’s GDP ranks 19th and it falls below the national poverty rate of 13%.

Here’s a look at some more of the numbers that reflect the debt struggles that hard-working citizens in Indiana often have to endure:

  • Consumer Debt: In 2020, Indianans had nearly $22 million in debt as a whole. Per capita, residents in Indiana have $3,238 of debt.
  • Mortgage Debt: The average amount of mortgage debt among Indianans went from $118,017 in 2018 to $120,345 in 2019, or 2%. That jump represented the 22nd largest increase in America from 2018 to 2019. 
  • Student Loan Debt: Indiana ranks 18th in the United States in terms of student loan debt. The average Class of 2019 graduate in Indiana carries an average of $26,641 in student debt.
  • Auto Loan Debt: The Hoosier State ranks 36th in the nation in average auto loan debt at $17,929. That total is up just 2% over the previous year.
  • Credit Card Debt: Indiana ranks 34th in the nation in average credit card debt per citizen ($7,393). To put that number into perspective, citizens in Illinois ($8,168), Ohio ($7,654) and Kentucky ($7,428) are faced with more credit card debt on average than those in Indiana.
  • Credit Scores For Indiana Residents: Indiana’s residents had an average credit score of 682 in 2020. That relatively low credit score is reflective of the areas of the state that have long suffered with unemployment and poverty.
  • Bankruptcy and Foreclosure Numbers for Indiana: Indiana was been hit particularly hard by bankruptcy in 2020, ranking 11th in the nation in total filings at 15,764.
  • Identity Theft in Indiana: Citizens in the Hoosier State reported 4,918 incidents of identity theft last year — or 74 reports per 100,000 citizens, according to TopConsumerReviews.com.

Sources

N.A. (ND) FSSA Resource Guide, Indiana Family and Social Services Administration. Retrieved from https://www.in.gov/fssa/files/FSSA_Resource_Guide.pdf

N.A. (ND) Debt by State 2020. Retrieved from https://worldpopulationreview.com/state-rankings/debt-by-state

Nikolovska, H. (2020, December 21) Average Mortgage Debt — A Complete Rundown. Retrieved from https://balancingeverything.com/average-mortgage-debt/

Jones, J. (2020, October 23) U.S. States With the Most Mortgage Delinquencies. Retrieved from https://constructioncoverage.com/research/states-with-the-most-mortgage-delinquencies-2020

Brown, M. (2020, August 19) Student Loan Debt By School, By State. Retrieved from https://lendedu.com/student-loan-debt-by-school-by-state-2020/