Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Southern Nevada (CCCS) , established in 1974, is a non-profit-United Way organization certified by HUD as a comprehensive housing counseling agency. Three primary services are provided, in English and Spanish, to any member of the community and most services are entirely free of charge: individual financial counseling, debt repayment/consolidation and financial education. CCCS, as the premier credit counseling agency, has partnered with financial institutions to create options for residents that will lead them to financial solvency such as Fresh Start Checking which recently was awarded the 2002 CRA Award by the Federal Home Loan Bank and the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
September 11th required CCCS to draw upon all their reserves to assist with the additional financial needs faced by Las Vegas. Unemployment and under-employment exploded overnight. Over 15,000 residents suddenly found themselves unemployed and thousands of others found themselves with shortened workweeks. Many of those affected had never before dealt with financial predicaments and had no idea of resources available, much less how to access them. Families that had never before considered themselves at risk suddenly faced potential homelessness. CCCS, at the request of the United Way, American Red Cross and other organizations associated with Helping Hands I (a program created by over 25 local non-profit and governmental agencies designed to provide a one-stop resource shop for those affected by 9/11) agreed to be the fiscal agent for those disbursing over $525,000 to landlords throughout the valley on behalf of the recipients and meeting the demands for accountability of the money disbursed. This project helped keep 800 families from becoming homeless.
Helping Hands II was established at the Community College of Southern Nevada campus. In addition to providing the resources found at Helping Hands I, CCCS was asked by community members such as the MGM Mirage and Park Place Entertainment to provide individual confidential financial counseling to displaced workers. Assistance with housing issues and prioritizing and controlling expenses were among the services provided. CCCS would serve almost 400 displaced workers and their families through this forum.
The above requests came on top of an incredible increase in the normal workload of CCCS. The agency regularly provides services in Southern Nevada over 90 hours each week to more than 1,000 individuals/families. October 2001 saw an increase of over 60% in direct requests for assistance. Incorporating the over 1,200 families/individuals helped through the special programs listed above meant CCCS’ requests for assistance increased almost 300%. Even with limited staff, all needs were met. Helping Hands II took advantage of CCCS staff and local volunteers, trained in a very short time period. The devoted staff of CCCS, working six days per week and most working 10-12 hours each day, met all other needs. The agency and staff realized the services they provided were imperative (and offered by no other agency) and any and all effort needed to meet the needs of the community were expended.