Extension and Outreach provides help for Iowans navigating new financial challenges


Garrett Heyd

Iowa State health plans are increasing in price along with the national upward trend of cost.

Logan Metzger

Due to the entire nation going through a pandemic, citizens are being encouraged to stay home. Staying home, however, may harm individuals on the financial side.

To help Iowans navigate the financial side of this crisis, Iowa State’s Extension and Outreach’s family finance program specialists are providing one-on-one financial conversations.

Cynthia Fletcher, professor and extension specialist in human development and family studies, said financial educators are available to talk about options for revising a budget, prioritizing bills, paying down debt and connecting Iowans with community resources to stretch reduced incomes.

“ISU Extension in the College of Human Sciences focuses on three content areas: family finance, nutrition and health and family life,” Fletcher said. “Faculty in the college support Extension educators who serve multi-county regions in the state. Eleven family finance program specialists take the research of the university to the people of Iowa, typically teaching non-credit classes and workshops to adults, professionals and community volunteers.”

Extension and Outreach has 11 financial educators who are available to talk with anyone in Iowa. Extension and Outreach staff are currently working from home and are encouraging individuals to send an email rather than call the office where no one is located, according to the Extension and Outreach website. The staff is supposed to respond during regular business hours within 48 hours, according to the website.

“Their role is education using multiple methods, ranging from social media, mass media, and events to in-depth workshop series to help people make informed decisions and change behavior,” Fletcher said. “The broad vision is to improve lives and increase communities’ capacity to meet Iowans’ needs.”

Iowans can connect with a family finance specialist by phone or email. The conversations are free and confidential. Fletcher said people are more vulnerable during times of crisis and can fall victim to scams or feel overwhelmed by the financial decisions they face.

The financial educators can help walk through ideas and options to revise a budget, prioritize bills, pay down debt, connect with community resources to stretch reduced incomes and other personal finance topics.

“The information provided is educational in nature to help you make your own informed decisions and is not intended to substitute for professional advice or serve as an endorsement of any financial product or service,” according to the Extension and Outreach website. “Consult with licensed professionals prior to implementing any of the information provided to determine the course of action is best for you.”

If anyone has questions, they can call Extension and Outreach’s toll-free Iowa Concern Hotline at 800-447-1985 for a referral or contact the family finance specialist for their county.

“The pandemic has created economic hardship and uncertainty,” Fletcher said. “The chance to talk to an unbiased educator to sort through options, revise plans/budgets or prioritize bills can help Iowans make more informed decisions.”