Monday, August 21, 2006
Help Me Howard: Broke
Do you have bills that need to be paid even after your paycheck is drained. Or has the skyrocketing cost of living in South Florida left you broken and beaten down. You are not alone, but what can you do when the bills keep piling up. Legally you have some options, which is why we bring in Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN--Daisy was a hardworking waitress, till May 1st.
Daisy Cole: "I was walking thru my house and slipped on the tile floor and broke my ankle on both sides."
And with two steel plates and nine screws in her ankle she can't wait on tables.
Patrick Fraser: "Can't walk on one leg?"
Daisy Cole: "I haven't mastered that one yet, I just mastered the crutches."
Remember that look, cause since she broke her ankle nearly four months ago...Daisy has not smiled much.
Daisy Cole: "I have a house payment to pay, I have utilities to pay, credit cards to pay."
Daisy had worked two jobs to buy this nice home.
But she only had enough savings to last one month.
So for the past three months the bills have been piling up.
Daisy Cole: "I am going crazy."
She used her credit cards to get by. Now they total $15,000.
She owes FPL $442. Her mortgage has not been paid in three months. And she fears her water will be cut off any day now.
Patrick Fraser: "How does it feel to look at that stack of bills and know?"
Daisy Cole: "It's overwhelming. It's days I look at it and I just start to cry because I can't take anymore... I'm sorry."
Daisy has tried everything she can think of, she put her house up for sale no buyers.
She tried to find a job where she could sit, no luck.
Daisy Cole: "Nobody wants to hire me because of my liability with a broken ankle."
She sold her jewelry, her car, and she spends all day asking any agency she can find. For financial help.
Daisy Cole: "Any number that anybody would give me I have gone that avenue and everybody keeps denying me."
It's estimated that tens of millions of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck. Look at Daisy's face. It wouldn't take many missed paychecks for this to be me or you.
Patrick Fraser: "There are alot of people who are a broken ankle away from being right where you are."
Daisy Cole: "I never thought this would happen to me."
And of course Daisy is also one of 45 million Americans without health insurance. The surgery for the broken ankle has been astronomical.
Daisy Cole: "I have so many medical bills that I file them in this big envelope. I don't even open them because this will overwhelm me more than this will great and use."
And each day that passes draws her one day closer. To every persons nightmare.
Daisy Cole: "I don't want to be homeless."
So with no money, no help, and no hope she called us.
Howard Finkelstein: "What's frightening here is that Daisy has looked almost everywhere without getting help. But we kept digging and found out that each county has what's called a Homeless Prevention Program that can help you with your rent, mortgage or utility bills because its cheaper and better to prevent homelessness than to deal with the problem later."
To help with the bills each county has different agencies.
In Broward try the Family Success Centers.
In Miami-Dade try the Salvation Army or Community Action Agency.
The counties Human Services Department has financial assistance or emergency housing.
If you have problems paying your electric bill, FPL has three seperate programs depending on your needs.
Look on your power bill for the number to call.
As for large medical bills---experts say negotiate them down to an amount you can repay. They should realize if they don't work with you they could force you into bankruptcy where they would get little or nothing.
And Howard says if you own a home there is a way to buy more time to avoid what happened to Daisy.
Howard Finkelstein: "If you have equity in your home, while you are working - right now, even if you dont need it - open a home equity line of credit. Not a loan, a line. Get it while you are working and you'll get a good interest rate. If you wait till you lose your job you might not even qualify for it."
Daisy is now taking advantage of all that to keep her home, but what she really wants is to get back on two feet.
Daisy Cole: "I want to be able to go back to work to pay my bills."
Patrick Fraser: "If you are in desperate shape and your mortgage company is trying to foreclose on you, try to work something out. Or hire a bankruptcy attorney who can help you stall them until you can get back on your feet and figure out a way to pay your bills.
"And by the way all the numbers we showed you for agencies that can help you out are at wsvn.com under Help Me Howard.
"And after researching this story, it's sadly true -- the agencies can help you some. But when you are down and out, Daisy is proof: it's tougher than most of us could ever imagine."
Burdened by a staggering problem? Need to shift it over to someone? Contact us. You don't have to be indebted to us and you never have to pay us back.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Broward Family Success Center
305 637 6700 Ext 126
Community Action Agency
Miami Dade Human Services
1) Budget Billing
2) 62 + Payment Plan
3) Care To Share