Credit counselor to merge with Ohio-based network

Indianapolis-based Momentive Consumer Credit Counseling Service Inc. has agreed to be absorbed by Ohio-based Apprisen Financial Advocates, as financial pressures in the industry push not-for-profit agencies to become larger.

Momentive’s two-person management team, including President Kathryn Perron, will remain with Apprisen and might take on responsibilities for a larger geographic area. At the same time, Perron expects Apprisen to add to its 20-person counseling staff by opening offices in Lafayette, Terre Haute and possibly southern Indiana.

“It’s primarily just so we can combine our forces,” Perron said of the merger, “to be able to add more staff but then have support for our staff as well.”

Perron said Apprisen has resources to enhance its online services and to secure grant funding, which has become a larger source of support for not-for-profit counseling agencies over the past two decades. Such agencies provide mostly free financial counseling to indebted consumers and help them set up repayment plans that buy time with angry creditors.

But creditors have paid less and less to the agencies for their services. When Perron joined the industry 20 years ago, she said, creditors would give the agencies a 15 percent cut of consumer’s payments. Now, she said, it’s about 4 percent.

Creditor fees make up only about one-third of Momentive’s $2 million annual budget. And many creditors now refer their customers only to national counseling agencies, such as Apprisen, bypassing local agencies like Momentive.

Because of these trends, Momentive had been running deficits in recent years, according to its federal tax filings, and had to reduce some of the community-based financial education it offered for free.

“Because of funding reductions overall in the non-profit industry, we’ve had to cut back,” Perron said.

But she said those cutbacks should be reversed under the new relationships with Apprisen, which she praised for sharing the same philosophy as Momentive.

Michael Kappas, Apprisen’s CEO, agreed. In a statement, he said, “We plan to combine our more than 55 years of credit counseling experience to work with Momentive to assist greater numbers of families and individuals throughout Indiana.”

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