The Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Maryland, a non-profit group that helps people straighten out their finances, is expanding its suburban operations by opening offices in Owings Mills and Columbia.
"We're trying to be where the need is," said Russ Bohlman, director of the service.
Although Owings Mills and Columbia traditionally have been among the more affluent areas in the Baltimore area, Mr. Bohlman said white-collar workers -- who may have lost their jobs in the defense industry or real estate business and be burdened with high mortgage payments or other expenses -- face the same budget crises other groups do.
The Columbia office, which opened March 16, is at 3 Lakefront North, Suite 204, at 5570 Sterrett Place across from the %o Columbia Mall.
The Owings Mills office, which opens tomorrow, is in Owings Center, Suite 1023, at 10220 S. Dolfield Road.
The additions bring to nine the number of offices administered by Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Maryland. Other offices are in Catonsville, Dundalk, Laurel, Bel Air, Salisbury, Perry Hall and Wilmington, Del.
CCCS of Maryland is affiliated with the Silver Spring-based National Foundation for Consumer Credit.
CCCS of Southeast Maryland Inc., a separate affiliate of the national foundation, covers Anne Arundel County.
The services provide debt-reduction counseling, help clients write budgets and structure payment plans, and offer educational programs.
The service is free, but clients are asked to donate $5.
In the two weeks since it opened, the Columbia office has placed 16 people in debt-reduction programs. "That's a lot for a new office," Mr. Bohlman said.
CCCS is supported primarily by big credit companies, which stand to benefit by recovering consumer payments that could be lost. Last year, for instance, CCCS of Maryland returned $13.6 million to creditors through individual debt-repayment programs, up from $9.9 million in 1990. Mr. Bohlman said the service expects to return $16.2 million this year.
The agency counseled 10,063 people last year, up from 7,771 in 1990.
Although CCCS will counsel anyone, there are some it cannot help, Mr. Bohlman said. About 20 percent of the people who come to the service do not make enough money to cover their expenses, so budgets and reduced payments wouldn't help, he said.
Many can be helped simply by being placed on a budget. If the situation is more serious, they are placed in voluntary debt-repayment programs.