They Were Worried About Finances. This Is How They Got Help.

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“I have never seen this much anxiety and fear about money,” one financial counselor said.

By Kaya Laterman

The prolonged pandemic has forced many New Yorkers to reassess their finances, bringing wrenching decisions on how to get by despite lost jobs or reduced work hours. Others have managed to save more than usual, as quarantine restrictions have pared their spending.

“I have never seen this much anxiety and fear about money,” said Pilayne Franklin, a financial counselor at the Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation, a nonprofit in Brooklyn that offers free financial and job training services. “Since most people do not look at what they’re spending week to week, the pandemic was a wake-up call.”

By midsummer about 33 percent of adults had dipped into savings or retirement funds to pay their bills since the outbreak began, according to a nationwide survey released in September by the Pew Research Center. A quarter of the survey participants said they had experienced trouble paying their bills, while 16 percent reported problems paying their rent or mortgage. In October, unemployment across the country remained stubbornly high, at 6.9 percent.

Over 4,400 New Yorkers have found free counseling through the city’s 30 financial empowerment centers. Others have started working with paid advisers for the first time.

Throughout the spring and summer, Ms. Franklin counseled up to seven people a day over the phone or through web seminars. She taught clients basic budgeting skills, but also how to speak to credit card companies and lenders to get monthly debt payments paused or reduced.

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