HI Community AssetsWhere: Hawaii

Problem: Hawaii Community Assets received funding for emergency COVID relief loans, but not for financial counseling to accompany the loans.

Solution: RCAC passed through funds for housing counseling services to go along with emergency loans from HCA.

Hawaii Community Assets (HCA) is the largest HUD counseling agency in the state with offices in Honolulu, Hilo, Anahola and Wailuku. It provides a continuum of housing counseling services to help clients rent or purchase homes or avoid foreclosures and evictions. Founded in 2000, HCA expanded to provide grants and loans as well. With the advent of a global pandemic, HCA’s lending services have become a new centerpiece of operations in this new reality.

The state of Hawaii reported in early August that more than 10,000 unemployment claims had not been processed. Predatory lenders moved to fill the gap. These lenders ask for as much as 460 percent interest on loans to people who are unsure when their unemployment funds will be paid. HCA sprang into action, drawing on a coalition of private and public funders to launch an emergency lending program. HCA began packaging $5,000 single-payment loans with no interest and no payments required for six months. The loans were forgivable, but if paid off in full, rolled over into a line of credit for future housing assistance. But HCA faced potentially not being able to fund the organization’s counseling services.

Rural Community Assistance Corporation (RCAC) passed through $30,000 total to fund housing counseling services. As HCA began to process its emergency loans, RCAC’s grant allowed it to bundle the loans with mandatory housing counseling services. From May to July, HCA loaned to more than 160 families. The families received critical counseling to set up spending plans, monthly budgets and connect with local resources.