Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

Operations During COVID-19

Is the HFEC operating during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Yes, the HFEC is operating while following the Centers for Disease Control social distancing and telecommuting guidelines. The HFEC counselors are available to assist residents, especially those who recently experienced loss of employment or have been affected by business closures during the pandemic.
How are counseling sessions conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic?
After initial intake information gathering and explanation of HFEC services, clients are scheduled for a one-on-one/remote counseling with a financial counselor. Sessions are conducted by telephone or using teleconferencing platforms like Zoom, Skype, WebEx, or Microsoft Teams depending upon the technology preference of the client.
How do I submit my financial forms during the COVID-19 pandemic?
All necessary documentation can be completed and submitted electronically without clients visiting the HFEC offices.
Can I schedule a counseling session during a time that works for me during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Yes, counseling sessions can be scheduled according to your schedule.
What are the business hours?
The hours of operation are Monday – Friday 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at our location. However, with the COVID-19 pandemic, we are extending hours of operation to accommodate your needs.

General FAQs

What is the Houston Financial Empowerment Center (HFEC)?
The Houston Financial Empowerment Center (HFEC) is a partnership between the City of Houston, the Cities for Empowerment Fund (CFE Fund), and a local nonprofit partner, The Alliance, to provide free, professional one-on-one financial counseling as a public service. To find out more information about the HFEC, please visit www.houstontx.gov/fec/
How much do these services cost?
Financial Empowerment Center services are always free.
How can a HFEC financial counselor help me?
The professionally trained and CFE Fund-certified financial counselors help clients better manage their money, improve their credit score, paydown debt, increase savings, establish and build credit, and provide access to safe and affordable banking products. The HFEC counselors can also help to create a customized plan to address student loans, buy a house, or start an emergency fund.
How often do I meet after my initial counseling session?
Sessions are scheduled to occur within one week or sooner after the initial contact by the client.
How long are counseling sessions?
Counseling sessions are typically 30-60 minutes.
How many times can you meet with a Financial Counselor?
You can meet with counselors as many times as needed.
Do you have Financial Counselors that speak Spanish?
Yes, we have Financial Counselors who speak Spanish.
How do I contact a counselor?
Please email the HFEC Program Manager Ana Gonzalez at agonzalez@thealliancetx.org or call the main number at (832) 393-1125 or (832) 393-1126. The telephone contact number is monitored by a live HFEC staff member during business hours. Voice messages and emails are returned the same day, usually within an hour. Afterhours contacts are returned the next business day.
How do I schedule an appointment?

To book an online appointment, you can also select a counselor through Youcanbook.me by selecting one of the counselors below:

Does the Financial Empowerment Center offer financial classes?
The Financial Empowerment Center provides individual counseling. The initial session will take approximately 1 hour. These sessions are not done in a group setting.
Are the counselors licensed or certified?
Counselors are trained and certified through the Cities for Financial Empowerment (CFE) Fund curriculum. They are required to have a bachelor’s degree or over 10 years relevant experience, complete the training course and pass the certification exams.
Does the Financial Empowerment Center provide offsite presentations?
Financial Empowerment Center representatives can conduct presentations to groups interested in learning more about the counseling process. Please contact one of the centers directly to learn more about scheduling.
Will the counselors come to my house and do sessions?
Counseling sessions are done at each of our centers and select satellite sites. Counselors can conduct phone sessions if we are able to collect signatures on the disclosures before the initial session
What do I need to bring to the first session?
You are not required to bring any documentation for the first session. However, documents such as paystubs, account statements, bills and other relevant financial documents are always helpful.
What types of things can financial counselors help with?
You can discuss any financial situation with a counselor. The counselor will work with you to develop a budget, create a plan of action based on your needs, and follow up with you to discuss your progress.

Credit, Debt, Savings, and More

Is there a fee to pull my credit report and score?
Services at the Financial Empowerment Center are always free. Counselors will meet with a client, review their current financial situation, and review the credit report and score.
Can you assist me with debt?
Counselors will help you review your current income and expenses and work with you to develop a plan to best address your debt, based on your current ability to repay. Schedule an appointment to develop a customized plan to reduce your debt.
Can you assist me with improving my credit score?
Credit scores can be improved by paying accounts on time, reducing the total balance owed, along with other key strategies. Schedule an appointment to develop a customized plan to improve your credit score.
Can you assist me with disputing inaccuracies on my credit report?
Counselors will work with you to review your credit report. If you identify errors on the report, the counselor will assist you to draft dispute letters to submit to the credit bureau.
Can you assist me reporting identity theft?
Identity theft can be very costly and is typically identified through review of bank statements or credit reports. Counselors will work with you to review these documents, identify possible identity theft, and work with you to notify the proper authorities.
Can you assist me in paying off my student loans?
Counselors can work with you to identify your current income, expenses, and student loan payment obligations. Counselors can assist with applying for or negotiating student loan payment programs.
Can you assist me in filing for bankruptcy?
Counselors will meet you to discuss your current financial situation, review income and expenses, create a household budget, and plans for spending and saving. When appropriate, counselors can make a referral to a bankruptcy attorney.
Can you assist me in preparing to buy a house?
Buying a house is a lengthy process and there are many factors to consider. Counselors will meet with you to review your current income and expenses, available savings, credit score and credit history to determine your readiness to purchase.