Thursday, March 23, 2023

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A proposed flavored tobacco ban is back on the table in Minnesota, Trump attorney Evan Corcoran must testify in the documents probe, and a "clean slate" bill in Missouri would make "expungement" automatic.

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The Fed raises interest rates and reassures the banking system is sound, Norfolk Southern reaffirms a commitment to the people of East Palestine, and TikTok creators gather at the Capitol to support free expression.

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Finding childcare is a struggle everywhere, prompting North Carolina's Transylvania County to try a new approach. Maine is slowly building-out broadband access, but disagreements remain over whether local versus national companies should get the contracts, and specialty apps like "Farmers Dating" help those in small communities connect online.

Credit Card Debt Storm Hangs Over U.S. Consumers

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Thursday, March 9, 2023   

Credit card debt in the U.S. is now at record levels. While those struggling to keep up might feel paralyzed, counselors say it's important to seek out solutions right away.

The New York Federal Reserve Bank's recent quarterly report on household debt noted credit card balances jumped to $986 billion, surpassing the pre-pandemic high of $927 billion, even after pandemic relief and higher wages helped some people build a cushion.

Bruce McClary, senior vice president of membership and communications for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, said with factors such as inflation, people are having to lean on their credit cards more, and it comes at the worst possible time.

"These balance increases are happening at a time when credit card interest rates are at an all-time high," McClary pointed out. "The average interest rate right now is somewhere around 20%, which is mind-blowing."

McClary advised if your budget is starting to unravel because of credit card bills, do not wait to seek help, because it can only complicate things if the debt is passed along to collection agencies. Nonprofits like his provide access to counselors who are geared to assist low- to moderate-income individuals. Initial consultations are often free, and fees can be waived for those eligible.

McClary emphasized in seeking out help, the standard red flag of "if it appears too good to be true" still applies.

"Companies that say they know secrets that help them achieve those results that nobody else knows," McClary explained. "The truth of the matter is it isn't that easy, and it's not always something these companies can deliver on."

He added you should never agree to pay an upfront fee before any steps are taken to address your debt situation. Meanwhile, groups such as AARP have financial tools on their website to help people manage their budgets, plan for retirement and avoid money traps.

Disclosure: AARP North Dakota contributes to our fund for reporting on Civic Engagement, Community Issues and Volunteering, Health Issues, and Senior Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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