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Thursday, June 4, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Apply 2 Save leaves clients and workers bewildered

If only Apply 2 Save Inc. would apply itself.

The Coeur d’Alene company was sued last month by the state of Idaho for promising mortgage relief it did not deliver.

That was April 20. On April 21, employees were issued paychecks that bounced around North Idaho banks like ping-pong balls. Then dozens were laid off or, as the company calls it, “furloughed.”

Some employees expect their furloughs are permanent. They are trying to move on, but they need to have those checks made good.

Mathew Clune sought, and Thursday received, a cashier’s check to replace the rubber original.

He says he was blindsided – and broke – when he tried to buy groceries with a debit card backed by a $900-plus paycheck he had deposited two days earlier.

Tammy Lynn Heston got her $1,500. Like Clune, she wrote a letter demanding her pay, and personally delivered it to Apply 2 Save.

Under Idaho law, if an employer does not issue a replacement check within 48 hours in response to such a letter, workers can file a wage claim that triggers an investigation by the Idaho Department of Labor.

Dawn McLees, a labor compliance officer in the Wage and Hour Section’s Kellogg office, says she has received “numerous, numerous” inquiries from Apply 2 Save workers. Sadly, a few are reluctant to file claims lest they lose a chance to return to work.

“They’ve already earned their wages,” McLees says. “They shouldn’t have to earn them again going through this.”

Heston says she is so ashamed and disappointed with her experience at Apply 2 Save she will not include it on her résumé.

“I’ve never worked for an employer where you have a bounced employment check,” she says.

Clune and Heston worked in the processing area at Apply 2 Save, where clients provide information they hope the company can use to negotiate new mortgage payment plans. They might pay as much as $1,500 up front in a desperate bid to avoid foreclosure.

Processors received almost no training before getting as many as 12 client files a day to complete, Clune and Heston say. The stress could be overwhelming.

In his lawsuit, Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden said Apply 2 Save clients were told repeatedly to re-submit information they had already sent the company. Meanwhile, lenders closed in.

Clune was with the company a little more than one month and saw files that dated to last June. He would go days without forwarding any files to negotiators.

And while Apply 2 Save was stringing along the clients, he says, employees were being strung along, too.

When the Federal Trade Commission last month came down on California-based Federal Loan Modification Law Center, scotching a proposed alliance with Apply 2 Save, employees were told their jobs were safe, Clune says. Same thing when dozens in customer service were laid off.

Then the processors got their notices.

Apply 2 Save spokesman Ryan Robinson says he does not know how many people have been furloughed because some are rotating back into Apply 2 Save headquarters on North Meadowlark. Employment peaked at 239, he says. Apply 2 Save will pay its employees, he says, adding that a delayed deposit caused a few checks to bounce.

Meanwhile, Robinson says, employees will be credited for unused paid time off if they are not re-hired by June 7. They will continue to receive health benefits.

He says negotiations with Wasden’s office are ongoing.

The lawsuit says Apply 2 Save preys on desperate homeowners, but Robinson says Apply 2 Save is getting results for clients, with 124 sale dates postponed in the past month and almost 300 modification terms received from lenders.

Apply 2 Save President Derek Oberholtzer, also a defendant in the lawsuit, says he has $5 million invested in the company.

In an interview a week before the April 20 filing, he said Apply 2 Save was being tarred by its association with an industry rife with bad actors. “We’re really able to get it done,” he said.

The attorney general, the Better Business Bureau and former employees say that, too often, they don’t.

Apply 2 Save has more work to do. You can’t furlough credibility.

Contact Bert Caldwell at bertc@spokesman.com or (509) 459-5450.

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