In recent decades, Oregon had successfully made the transition from an economy based on resources, like timber, to a more diverse mix of manufacturing, food service and more. The result was nearly a decade of job and wage growth.

But that plateaued in late 2019, sparking a need for economic measures that include a three-tiered minimum wage that went into effect mid-2020. State officials predict that it will take until 2023 for the economy to get back on track.

The state has some of the best wages in country – in certain industries. Those in the information industry, for example, make an average $89,699. But those in the leisure and hospitality industry, make an average $23,798.

Given that, and the hit many industries took during the pandemic, economic issues like paying the bills and getting relief from debt are personal and immediate for many Oregonians.

Debt Relief Options for Oregon Residents

The first thing anyone looking for debt relief should do is figure out where your money is going and where you can cut back. InCharge Debt Solutions can help create a budget that makes sense with your income and expenses. Its debt management program will lower the interest rate on your credit card debt and reduce your monthly payment to an affordable level. .

Do your homework, not only with your own finances, but in researching options, before committing to a debt relief solution. The Oregon Department of Justice Consumer Protection bureau has a webpage with tips and advice, including how to avoid scams.

Debt Counseling and Debt Management

Any Oregon state resident, regardless of income or credit score, can take advantage of nonprofit debt counseling services offered by InCharge. There’s an easy online application, and some services are free, including credit counseling, which includes help with budgeting.

For a small fee, applicants may also join the debt management program, in which InCharge credit counselors work with creditors to reduce the interest rate on credit card debt and figure out a monthly payment you can afford. Credit score doesn’t matter, so debt management is a good option for people with bad credit who want to consolidate debt and pay it down.

Debt Consolidation Loans

A debt consolidation loan is a loan that is specifically for paying the balance on credit cards and other unsecured debt. Like debt management, it includes one monthly fixed payment, in this case, to the lender. Borrowers with a higher credit score may want to consider this. The lower your credit score is, the more likely the loan will carry fees and higher interest. Debt consolidation loans can come in the form of home equity lines of credit or a second mortgage. Keep in mind with options that uses your home as collateral that the stakes are a lot higher if you end up not being able to pay.

Debt Settlement

Debt settlement means the consumer (or company they hire) negotiates with the creditor to pay off the debt for less than what is owed. This often comes with high fees, and lowers your credit score, and is frequently not cost-effective. It remains on your credit report as a negative – did not pay full amount – for seven years.

Bankruptcy

Bankruptcy is a last resort option when you can’t find any other way to solve the problem. Bankruptcy can eliminate credit card debt, but your credit score will drop dramatically for the next 7-10 years. It could become very difficult to get a home or car loan over that timeframe if you are seeking an upgrade in the near future.

Do It Yourself

You can always consider a DIY debt management program with a debt management template. These are set up by InCharge and allow you to pick the plan that best suits your economic distress and your personal finances.

Oregon Debt Resources

Oregon has a wide range of debt resources for those looking to get a firmer financial footing.

The state Department of Justice Consumer Protection webpage is a good place for information on where to start and not get scammed. The state also has a webpage that explains Oregon law regarding debt management and budget counseling programs.

Operation Round Up is an umbrella program that works with nonprofits to provide help with utility payments, rent medical bills and more. It’s accessed through the service provider, with a link on their website for an application.

Another over-arching program is Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), which provides cash for families who need it to pay for food, shelter, clothing and more. The current maximum benefit for a family of three in Oregon is $506 and the money is issued through an electronic benefit card, commonly known as the Oregon Trail card.  The program also provides SNAP benefits, formerly known as food stamps.

The Oregon Housing Stability Council website provides many resources for those looking for help paying the rent or mortgage. Resources range from how to find a homeless shelter to how to better weatherize a home.

The Low Income Heat Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), helps those who need it pay their heating and cooling bills. It’s a federal program funding through the Department of Health and Human Services.

Those who are looking for information on how to deal with a consumer legal issue, whether it be collection calls, a landlord dispute, identity theft, or more, can contact the Oregon State Bar website, that has resources and information on many consumer-related legal topics. Oregonlawhelp.org also has links to where to hire lawyers for free or low costs.

Oregon Debt Statistics

Oregonians were good at managing credit card debt in 2020 when the average amount owed dropped 15%, to $4,681. Oregonians even managed to raise their credit scores in 2020, with the average at 727, up from 718 the year before and well above the national average of 711.

Still, Oregonians have one of the highest debt-to-income ratios in the country, 1.61.

There are a lot of reasons Oregonians may be in debt, but the primary reason, historically has been high housing costs. The average mortgage is $224,503, and residents of the Portland metro area are in one of the 50 markets in the U.S. with the highest mortgage debt, an average of $253,004 in 2019. Student loans are also a big factor.

The new three-tier state minimum wage rate that began July 1, 2020, has a high of $13.25 an hour in the Portland urban area, $12 in other areas of the state and $11.50 in some nonurban counties. It will increase by 50 cents or 75 cents a year through 2022, depending on the area, and in years after, rise according to the U.S. Consumer Price Index.

Per capita personal income in Oregon was $52,937 in 2019, just 93% of the national average, and state economy officials are hoping to boost that with the new wage.

Still, at the end of 2020, the state had 140,000 fewer less jobs than it did at the end of 2019, and state officials say it’ll take 2023 or later for the state to recover. That leaves a lot of Oregonians looking for debt relief help.

Sources

N.A. (ND) Oregon Blue Book: Oregon’s Economy. Retrieved from https://sos.oregon.gov/blue-book/Pages/facts/economy-income.aspx

N.A. (ND) Oregon Budget Documents (governor’s budget) Retrieved from https://www.oregon.gov/dor/about/Pages/budget.aspx

Lehner, J. (2017, July 12) Oregon Household Debt Mostly Tame. Retrieved from https://oregoneconomicanalysis.com/2017/07/12/oregon-household-debt-mostly-tame/

Mechling, A. (2020, August 7) A Portrait of Poverty in Oregon. Retrieved from https://www.ocpp.org/2020/08/07/poverty-oregon/

Stolba, S.L. (2020, November 30) Credit Card Debt in 2020: Balances Drop for the First Time in Eight Years. Retrieved from https://www.experian.com/blogs/ask-experian/state-of-credit-cards/

Stolba, S.L. (2021, January 4) Experian 2020 Consumer Credit Review. Retrieved from https://www.experian.com/blogs/ask-experian/consumer-credit-review/

Thatham, M. (2019, July 16) Mortgage Loan Debt Increases for 7th Straight Quarter. Retrieved from https://www.experian.com/blogs/ask-experian/how-much-americans-owe-on-their-mortgages-in-every-state/