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Tornado victims who need help with their credit rating can get help from local Catholic Charities chapter

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Rebuilding or surviving after the Joplin tornado cost some more than money. It cost some their credit rating.

But Catholic Charities of Southern Missouri has a new program to help.

Linda Romine lost her car trying to help a friend in the Joplin tornado. She also lives on social security. The combination caused credit troubles.

Romine says, "I'm a retired registered nurse and I fell and hurt my lower back. I had two crushed lumbar and I was flat on my back for six months and you know, I'm divorced and I had no income whatsoever and things just went awry."

She's the first person going through the secured credit card program with Catholic Charities.

Dee Maples, director of Housing and Financial programs with Catholic Charities of Southern Missouri says, "The clients would save $250 dollars that one time. We would match that with $250 from our fund. Then they would get the $500 secured credit card at no risk to the bank because essentially the client is borrowing against their own money."

It works like other credit cards but case managers monitor how it's used each month. And recommend it's used on regular purchases.

Maples says, "For instance, gas and then they pay that credit bill off when it comes in the mail in full, on time. That, if they do that twelve consecutive months that will help raise their credit score and establish good credit."

Catholic Charities is using grant funds for the secured credit card program. They say many tornado victims got into deeper debt after the disaster.

Case Manager Brad Campbell, says, "So they were without a house. They found a place more expensive than they could afford. Or their vehicle was damaged so they got a newer vehicle more than they could really afford. Or they lost a lot of their home furnishings and went to these rent to own in the community and developed this huge amount of crushing debt."

Coordinators say a better credit rating could help get Linda lower mortgage or insurance rates. And even helps in landing jobs. But it also eliminates her worry.

Linda says, "I've always said since I can remember my biggest fear is not being able to take care of myself. So, if I get my credit built back up and I get my housing expenses reduced, I'll have more control over my finances. And it's just peace and I sleep better."

The program has funding for up to 39-more clients and needs to be utilized this year. Interested parties should go to the local Catholic Charities office at 4th and Kentucky in Joplin. To qualify for the secured credit card program, tornado victims must first apply for case management and financial counseling.

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