The tax, credit and housing counseling agency, DCRAC, recently opened a new office in Georgetown

Samuel and Lesmayra Bautista recently moved to Dagsboro and are looking to purchase a home in Sussex County.

But first, the couple had some questions about their credit score and how it would affect their ability to get a mortgage.

“The first thing you want to do is get a credit report, which is like your very best friend, who is talking about you behind your back,” explained Rashmi Rangan, the executive director of the Delaware Community Reinvestment Action Council (DCRAC). “You want to know what it’s saying about you.”

DCRAC is a nonprofit agency that’s been providing fair lending advocacy in Delaware for 25 years. More recently, it has started offering tax, credit and housing counseling services to low-income residents.

Although the agency has had a presence in Georgetown since 2005, it only recently opened its own office in the Georgetown Professional Park off of U.S. Route 113.

“We really want to expand what we’re doing here in Sussex County,” said Rangan who received a Wilmington Award from Wilmington Mayor James M. Baker earlier this month for her work with low-income families. “There’s a huge need here, particularly in the Latino community, for financial counseling that people can have faith in.”

Currently, DCRAC is only offering regular office hours in Georgetown on Mondays, however credit and housing counseling will be available through the rest of the week by appointment.

Rangan said the organization hopes to soon begin offering regular credit clinics and weekly financial counseling classes.

“We try to work with people to help teach them how to keep a household budget, build their credit and get started toward seeking mortgage loans,” she said. “On the back end, we also do consumer advocacy along every spectrum, from fighting against unscrupulous payday lending and title loan operations to battling foreclosures.”

Last year, DCRAC also founded Stepping Stones Community Credit Union. The first credit union charted in Delaware in decades, Stepping Stones specifically serves low-income residents of Wilmington by offering basic savings accounts and small short-term loans as an alternative to payday lenders.

“The people who work here are very well informed, helpful and very accessible to the Latino community, thanks to their bilingual staff,” said Israel Figueroa, the pastor at Iglesia de Dios Marantha in Seaford, who last year was able to purchase a home after DCRAC helped him prepare a modified loan application.

“I had sought help from other organizations, but they charge a lot of money, and when you’re struggling financially, you don’t want to pay a lot on counseling that you could be using toward your loan,” he said. “This was free and easy. They told me exactly what forms they needed from me and gave me all the information I needed for dealing with the bank.”

Figuero found the service so helpful that he recommended DCRAC to members of his congregation, including fellow Seaford resident Fermin Mitos.

“It’s a very good service,” Mitos said in Spanish. “I’ve been pre-approved for a mortgage loan thanks to their help.”

In addition to credit and housing counseling, DCRAC also provides assistance to people facing tax liens and wage garnishments from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service.

Jim Angus, a volunteer attorney who helps provide those services at DCRAC’s Georgetown office, said in most cases the agency’s staff is able to set up payment plans for those clients who can pay their tax debt, or stop all collection activity for those who cannot.

“The people who come to see me are usually in despair and don’t know where to turn,” he said. “The IRS is the least favorite creditor you want on your case.”

For more information about DCRAC, or to set up an appointment, call the organization’s toll-free hotline at (877) 825-0750.