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Lifeline thrown to clients of abruptly closed Consumer Credit Counseling

Consumer Credit Counseling Services in Merrillville has closed and is referring clients to other services.

Region residents who are drowning in debt and faced with uncertainty after Consumer Credit Counseling in Merrillville abruptly closed last month now are being thrown lifelines by two other nonprofits.

Consumer Credit Counseling board Chairwoman Loretta Minor, who was left to pick up the pieces after the 44-year-old nonprofit fell behind on bills and got evicted, transferred case files for debt management plan services to Navicore Solutions, a nonprofit based in New Jersey.

Former clients who made a consolidated monthly debt payment to Consumer Credit Counseling, also have the option of turning to the Texas-based nonprofit Money Management International to set up a new debt management plan.

The Indiana Foreclosure Prevention Network stepped in to provide foreclosure prevention counseling to former Consumer Credit Counseling clients, and Minor turned the nonprofit's Hardest Hit mortgage assistance program over to the city of Gary.

Minor said the 156 affected clients should arrange to make November and December payments directly to their creditors.

She now is mailing back 30-some money orders clients left as their last payment at the now-shuttered office at 800 E. 86th Ave., Suite B, in Merrillville, along with a letter for Navicore.

"Navicore Solutions is a nonprofit, financial management and social service agency that provides services to consumers nationally with offices in 11 states," the New Jersey-based nonprofit said in the letter.

Navicore has all the case files for Consumer Credit Counseling's debt management clients, will continue the same payment plan they had been on, and can walk them through the process, Minor said. It will waive its monthly fee.

"Navicore will have dedicated staff available to assist you through this transition. Your account will be transferred to the Navicore Solutions system with very little action expected on your part," the nonprofit said in the letter.

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"Future communications will come directly from Navicore Solutions, and your accounts will be handled with the utmost care and with no change in terms. Under separate cover, Navicore Solutions will send you an informational packet that will include their Client Handbook, a new client agreement and additional material, which will assist in this transition and help to ensure your continued success on the Debt Management Program."

But that's not the only option for those affected.

"Additionally, you will receive a letter and or a call from Money Management International," Navicore said in the letter.

"This well-established organization is looking to work with you as well. If you move forward with Money Management International they will work to re-establish you in a newly formed debt management plan."

Money Management International spokesman Thomas Nitzsche said the 60-year-old national nonprofit that's based in the Houston suburb of Sugar Land, will waive the set-up fee for clients who choose to re-establish their debt management plan with them. 

Clients would have to go through financial counseling again, and Money Management International would renegotiate payment plans with creditors.

"Monthly payments likely would be the same or lower," he said.

Anyone who's interested should call Money Management International at 866-490-4410. Anyone who had received foreclosure prevention counseling or Hardest Hit assistance from Consumer Credit Counseling should call www.877gethope.org or call 877-438-4673.

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Business Reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.