FINANCE. Quebecers barely had time to breathe a bit when the second confinement has indeed begun. The temporary closure of a few economic sectors and the stricter containment measures are causing quite a financial headache for many. More than ever, the Association coopérative d’économie familial (ACEF) Montérégie-est is reaching out to those struggling with financial problems, the time to get back on their feet.
Established for more than 40 years in Granby, ACEF Montérégie-est’s main mission is to educate, inform and raise awareness among consumers in matters of budget, debt, responsible consumption and housing. Although very busy during the usual period, the organization has no shortage of work these days. In recent weeks, budget advisers have been called upon on both sides to help individuals get through the second confinement. “I have a feeling this wave is going to be serious. During the first wave, people felt secure with the numerous government grants so it was more peaceful on our side, ”says Nicole Laverrière, director of ACEF Montérégie-est.
Just back from the holiday break, the organization receives many calls from individuals looking for financial solutions. “What we see is people who want to reimburse the ECP who took even without having the right. Other people have benefited from the suspension of their mortgage payments and have been entitled to financial relaxations which are now completed. This leads to its share of problems, because if you do not yet have an income and the payments arrive, you are in trouble, ”explains Nicole Laverrière. While awaiting government assistance from the provincial and federal governments, individuals turn to the organization for guidance. “There will be a lot of calls, but we are ready to support them and help them as best we can so that they can make good decisions,” underlines the director.
Whoever says financial problem, also says they sometimes have difficulty paying their rent. In addition to financial advice, Nicole Laverrière’s team offers assistance in defending tenants’ rights. “Our goal is to give them the steps to follow to have the rights of the tenant and the owner recognized if there is ever a deadlock,” explains Nicole Laverrière. Since the start of the pandemic, budget advisers have received few calls in this direction. The organization strongly encourages tenants to contact the owner directly when a financial problem arises. “We must not wait for the 15the day of the month to tell the landlord that you can’t pay the rent. Sometimes, agreements can be made between them in a precarious situation, ”she emphasizes. In the event of a complication, the Housing Court may be the ultimate decision.
Making a budget, the key to all evils
For many years, the organization has often repeated the same words to its clientele: budget planning. “The best advice we can give is to make a budget that we call emergency in the current situation. The person must calculate his expenses, his income in order to properly calculate his budget. Now is not the time to think about luxury goods. Now is the time to adopt a certain austerity, because sometimes the little cushion we had is now melted, ”emphasizes Nicole Laverrière.
Despite the pandemic, ACEF has not reduced its services and offers its remote support where meetings are held until further notice via telephone and videoconference.